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AUG 1 7 1982 

Smithsonian Institution 
Washington, D.C. 
September 26, 1977 


Collecting and preserving are fundamental and indivisible aspects of a 
museum's function. They are the cornerstones of a museum's contributions to 
scholarship and the measure of its success in enriching the educational 
opportunities for this and future generations. 

For 130 years the collections of the Smithsonian Institution have grown 
in variety, complexity and richness. Today they stand unmatched by any other 
organization or group of organizations under any one central management. They 
are more than a national resource; they constitute a treasure of learning and 
enjoyment held in trust for future generations. The importance of the 
Institution's collections is matched by the burden and responsibility of 
housing them adequately so that they can be enjoyed and studied and can 
fulfill their potential of contributing to the "increase and diffusion of 
knowledge among men." 

The Institution has now come to a critical point in the development of 
its research and conservation programs. The facilities available to carry 
them out in an effective and responsible way are no longer adequate and new 
approaches must be sought so that curation, study and conservation may be 
undertaken in a proper environment. The solution found after many years of 
research, and the exploration of many alternatives, is the proposed Museum 
Support Center to be located in Silver Hill, Maryland; a facility which will 
be new and innovating and one which, in its presently proposed configuration, 
will cost twenty-one and a half million dollars. 

When confronted with such an expenditure, it was only natural for the 
Office of Management and Budget to inquire from the Institution concerning 
the reasons leading to the recommendations for this new facility, and to 
invite the Institution to demonstrate that collection and administrative 
controls are in effect to assure that future growth results from a thoughtful 
scholarly process. 0MB 's request could not have come at a more propitious 
time for it coincided with the strongly felt need within the Institution's 
administration for a better assessment of present procedures and for developing 
new ones more responsive to needs which were becoming progressively more 

The study presented here summarizes information obtained by a committee 
chaired by Mr. Philip Leslie, Registrar of the Institution. It is as 
exhaustive and candid as the time available for its completion allowed. It 
presents a diverse panorama of policies, directions and traditions, arrived 
at by different means and carried out with various degrees of control. It 
suggests a number of areas where policies might be consolidated or where more 
detailed study is required. 

The growth curves projected for the future are the products of statistical 
analyses and have been modified where appropriate by critical curatorial and 
directorial review based upon the knowledge of the estimated object universe 
in the various disciplines as well as on an assessment of new directions that 
collecting may — and in some cases must — take because of the shrinkage of 
resources, ecological and evolutionary change, as well as the impact of new 
ways to communicate and share these resources among institutions. 

This study, which brings together much new information for the first 
time and presents old data in a fresh context, will continue beyond this 
present stage. It will lead to further refinement in practices, to the 
codification, wherever appropriate, of procedures, and to the identification 
of new collecting needs. 

While assembling this data, a soul-searching examination has been 
initiated which will unquestionably lead to improved methods for administering 
and further developing these unparalleled collections for the benefit of 
contemporary society and of future generations of visitors and scholars. In 
the meantime there are a number of recommendations that immediately commend 
themselves to our attention and which will provide information needed for 
future planning. They are listed on page 131. 

Paul N. Perrot 
Assistant Secretary 
for Museum Programs 




Scope of the Study 3 


Why Museums Collect 6 

Uses of SI Collections 8 


Selection Methods 14 

Accessioning 16 

Disposition of Rejected Objects and Specimens 17 

Statistics on Rejections 20 

Selection and Disposition Studies 23 

Bequests Accepted and Declined 25 


Evolution of Collections Policies 27 

Current Situation at NMHT and NMNH 30 

Characteristics of Existing Policy Documents 33 

Authority Required for Approval 34 


Initial Forecasting Experiment 42 

Historical Statistics 43 

Effect of object size on space requirements 44 

Problems with the annual reports 46 

Pro j ecting Future Growth 48 

Growth proj ection techniques 49 

Collection Growth Curves 53 

Cooper-Hewitt 54-55 

Freer 56-57 

HMSG 58-59 

NASM 60-6 1 

NCFA 62-63 

NMHT - Agriculture and Mining 64-65 

NMHT - Ceramics and Glass 66-67 

NMHT - Electricity and Nuclear Energy 68-69 

NMHT - Manufacturing 70-7 1 

NMHT - Medical Sciences 72-73 

NMHT - Military History 74-75 

NMHT - Naval History 76-77 

NMHT - Numismatics 78-79 

NMHT - Philately 80-8 1 

NMHT - Physical Sciences 82-83 

NMHT - Political History 84-85 

NMHT - Textiles 86-87 

NMHT - Transportation 88-89 

NMHT - Collections Not Plotted Mathematically 91 


Collection Growth Curves (Continued) 

NMNH - Archeology 92-93 

NMNH - Birds 94-95 

NMNH - Botany 96-97 

NMNH - Crustacea 98-99 

NMNH - Echinoderms 100-101 

NMNH - Entomology 102-103 

NMNH - Ethnology 104-105 

NMNH - Fishes 106-107 

NMNH - Mammals 108-109 

NMNH - Meteorites 110-111 

NMNH - Mineralogy 112-113 

NMNH - Mollusks 114-115 

NMNH - Paleobiology 116-117 

NMNH - Petrology and Volcanology 118-119 

NMNH - Physical Anthropology 120-121 

NMNH - Reptiles and Amphibians 122-123 

NMNH - Worms 124-125 

NPG 126-127 

NZP 128-129 



Cooper-Hewitt A-1 

Freer A-7 

HMSG A-15 

NASM A-2 1 

NCFA A-27 

NMHT A-31 

NMNH A-45 

NPG A-75 

NZP A-8 1 


Smithsonian Institution B-1 

Cooper-Hewitt B-5 

Freer B-7 


NASM B-13 

NCFA B-15 

NMHT B-17 

NMNH B-23 

NPG B-25 

NZP B-27 


Museum Collections In Anthropology C-2 

Screening During Accessioning C-3 

Jones-Miller Site Case Study C-4 

Donated Collection Case Study C-6 

Inventory and Deaccessioning C-6 


Appendix E - CONSERVATION E-1 

Conservation Facilities and Personnel E-4 


The dilemma caused by growing collections and the increasingly inadequate 
facilities to house them became an important concern of the Smithsonian 
Institution more than ten years ago. Since then, a number of proposals and 
studies have been made in an effort to seek a solution to a situation which, 
with every passing year, was becoming more critical. These studies were 
concerned with defining the scope of needed physical facilities as well as 
assessing the requirements of various types of collections and defining research, 
curatorial, and conservation relationships. 

It was apparent, from the onset, that existing and new facilities on the 
Mall should be devoted primarily to public service through exhibition and 
education programs designed to present to the millions of visitors who come to 
the Capital every year the most comprehensive panorama possible on the 
development of the natural and manmade world. As a consequence, any new 
storage, research, and conservation facility would have to be removed from the 
Mall, though in a location easily accessible to the staff as well as to the 
smaller constituency of visiting scholars. 

Between the late 1960's and the mid 1970' s the acute need for a new 
facility came into sharper focus. As its scope was defined and the financial 
requirements to meet the most urgent need were determined, another need became 
apparent to the Institution and to the Office of Management and Budget: an 
examination of collecting goals and acquisitions policies and of the various 

administrative procedures enacted by the Institution's several museums to keep 
policies current and to ascertain that each step in the acquisition process 
was accompanied by appropriate curatorial, departmental, and directorial 
review in accordance with the recognized mandate of each of the units involved. 
This critical self-appraisal of practices was a logical precondition to the 
allocation of new resources for further expansion. 

In the Spring of 1976, Secretary Ripley appointed a committee under the 

Chairmanship of Philip Leslie, Registrar of the Institution, to carry out a 

Collections Policy and Management Study. Members of the Committee included: 

Frederick Bayer, NMNH 

Douglas Evelyn, NPG 

Robert Farrell, Agenda Office 

Bernard Finn, KMHT 

John Jameson, Administration 

Nancy Kirkpatrick, Programming and Budget 

Edward Kohn, NZP 

Stanley Kovy, Computer Services 

Thomas Lawton, Freer 

Philip Leslie, SI Registrar's Office 

Donald Lopez, NASM 

Harry Lowe, NCFA 

Marie Malaro, General Counsel's Office 

Christian Rohlfing, Cooper-Hewitt 

Frank Taylor, Administration 

Stephen Weil, HMSG 

These were assisted by Lee Ann Hayek, Office of Computer Services who 
performed statistical analyses of collection growth; Kenneth J. McCormick of 
the Office of Computer Services who provided programming support; and Margaret 
Hardin of the Anthropology Department of the University of Maine (temporarily 
employed at NMNH) who correlated the selection and disposition study whose 
conclusions appear in Appendix C. Among others, whose help is gratefully 
acknowledged, are Stephen A. Boruchowitz, Mary W. Lund and Melva L. Simmons of 

the SI Registrar's Office, who provided data and editorial support, and Paula 
Degen, of Degen Associates Interpretive Services, who edited the preliminary 


The average person tends to think of the Smithsonian Institution as 
either a museum or a group of museums. It would be more accurate, however, to 
describe it as a centrally administered complex of separate bureaus, each 
engaged in one or more of four basic activities: research, publication, 
collections management, and exhibition. 

Collections management encompasses all the functions necessary to the 
development and perpetuation of collections containing art works, artifacts, 
scientific specimens, and other objects representative of our cultural and 
natural heritages. It is a term commonly used both in museums and in collection- 
maintaining organizations other than museums. A listing of collections 
management responsibilities includes such things as selection, classification, 
cataloging, conservation, information and records management, insurance, 
packing, security, storage and transportation, and space planning. 

Although in studying the collection management practices and policies of 
the Institution an examination was made of all its parts, the principal 
investigation focused on the nine bureaus whose operations require that they 

manage collections which in their aggregate cover virtiially every aspect of 
manmade and natural creation. These nine are: 

o Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Decorative Arts and Design 

o Freer Gallery of Art 

o Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (HMSG) 

o National Air and Space Museum (NASM) 

o National Collection of Fine Arts (NCFA) 

o National Museum of History and Technology (NMHT) 

o National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) 

o National Portrait Gallery (NPG) 

o National Zoological Park (NZP) 


The disposition of the moonrock samples gathered during the Apollo missions 
illustrates the purposes and uses of museum collections in general. These 
rocks, representing American achievement in space, are regarded as the shared 
property of all mankind and rightfully should be made perpetually available to 
all. Therefore, NASA has dispersed the samples to locations where they can be 
viewed and studied by as many people as possible. Some of the rocks are on 
public display in selected museums and NASA Centers. Some are being moved 
about the world in traveling exhibitions. Some representative samples have 
been and will be subjected to both destructive and nondestructive analytical 
testing to further refine our understanding of them. About one-fourth of the 
existing samples are being stored in a stable, secure environment, remotely 
located to assure their integrity and availability to future generations of 
scientists who may need to examine them anew or employ analytical techniques 
not yet developed. 

In every case, the lunar rock samples are maintained in organized 
collections, for it is in the collecting community, primarily, that one finds 
experts in the preservation and storage of precious objects. The lunar rocks 
have some special requirements which these experts are best able to satisfy. 
For example, with the exception of such specimens as the polished slice that 
visitors can touch at NASM, lunar material should be stored in an inert 
environment even when on display. All the lunar rocks should be protected from 
theft, from careless handling, and from inadvertent contamination or destruction. 
Yet they must be stored in such a way that specimens can be retrieved when 


Because of the dramatic circumstances under which these specimens were 
collected from their extraterrestrial source, the world knows about them, is 
interested in seeing them, and appreciates the need for a management program to 
maintain them. Yet, other objects and specimens in museums have the same character- 
istics. Art objects, artifacts, and scientific specimens are collected for 
similar purposes and potential uses, and they have similar requirements for 
preservation, storage, documentation, and access. 


In the hope of attaining a better understanding of the present and gaining 
insight into the future, it is important to know and understand the past. 
Artifacts and scientific specimens provide an objective basis for our knowledge 
of the earth and other bodies in the solar system, the origin and development 
of life on earth, and the achievements and aspirations of mankind. Some museums 
attempt to select, secure, and preserve as unbiased, complete and representative 
collections of samples as possible. Those samples are themselves repositories 
and records of artistic, cultural, technical, and scientific endeavors and 
achievements of the past and the present, for use by this and future generations, 
The objective of such collecting is to bring together a sufficient number of 
items and enough documentation and other supporting ';^^:itten information to 
allow significant comparisons in order to formulate questions and seek answers 
concerning ourselves and the natural and manmade environment. While the 
questions that are asked are influenced by such factors as cultural and other 

biases and by the limits of present understanding, the material object offers 
the soundest foundation on which to base our knowledge. The three-dimensional 
object represents something tangible on which hypotheses can be based and 
interpretations made. As long as the object or specimen remains it can be 
referred to and reexamined with new insights, new questions, and new bases for 
further investigation. 

Among other museums, those concerned with art may have a different goal: 
to present only the high points of one or another aspect of art history and 
provide the opportunity for the unique intellectual delight of viewing objects 
chosen with care and presented in such manner that the individual observer is 
engaged in a personal voyage of discovery into the subtleties of artistic 
creation. These several types of museums, whether concerned with science, 
history or art, are complementary. Together they serve the highest scholarly 
aims and provide unmatched opportunities for learning, enjoyment, and inspiration. 

Many of the objects and specimens important for present and future study 
are fragile, and all are subject to the deterioriation that is the fate of all 
matter. Unless there is a deliberate attempt to preserve them, irreparable 
alteration, disruption, or actual destruction will remove them from the record. 
Environmental hazards, ignorance, and inherent weaknesses work to obliterate 
the physical remains of the past. Contributing to this obliteration is man's 
increasing mobility and the pace of change which hastens the rate at which 
objects and specimens are discarded, or drastically altered. 

Through the years, museums have had a miajor role in rescuing and preserving 
the material evidence of the past and of the present before it was lost. Even 

though it is not always possible to identify endangered objects before they 
have disappeared, a conscientious effort must be made to secure and preser-ze 
those that might hold clues for future knowledge and enlightenment. Whether 
fossils and artifacts rescued from a construction site, aircraft and other 
objects that tend to be destroyed through their use, or paintings, textiles, 
and other materials that naturally deteriorate, the object or scientific 
specimen can best be saved, preserved, and made accessible as part of a museum 

Man-made objects and natural specimens provide the most reliable evidence 
of what was and is. Preserved with integrity, they provide evidence on our 
predecessors, put our own history in perspective, and have the potential to 
communicate with and enrich future generations. Most studies that deal with 
the physical world depend upon these objects for the information they contain; 
museums collect and preserve them for research, education, exhibition and, 
most importantly, because they are the authentic record of human creativity, 
and of the evolution of nature. 


The collections at the Smithsonian Institution are primarily used for 
research and archival purposes, for education, and for exhibition. Those who 
use the collections represent a cross section of society: the general public; 
elementary, high school, college, and graduate students; collectors and 
hobbyists; scientists and scholars; craftsmen and industrialists; public 
servants and foreign visitors of all kinds. 


Research has been an essential function of the Smithsonian since its 
inception. Within the Institution research on collections is conducted primarily 
by SI staff and other qualified scholars. The documentation and other products 
of this research together with the objects themselves contribute to man's 
knowledge, and become part of the archival record that will be studied and 
evaluated by future generations. 

KtlNH, for example, is one of the major centers in the world for basic 
research in the natural sciences. The scientific staff works with the museum's 
collections in ways that vary from routine identifications to in-depth original 
research. This research leads to numerous applications. For instance, 
scientists and scholars from industry make use of NMNH's systematic collections 
in such areas as environmental impact studies. NMNH collections have also 
been employed by industry personnel in the search for fossil fuels. Similarly, 
other bureaus make their collections available for research. At HMSG, the 
paintings storeroom is also a study area which allows the serious researcher 
access to those parts of the paintings collection which are not currently on 
public display. Staff research at NASM has lead to an important publication 
on lunar geology. Scientists from NASA and other agencies refer to these 
collections. And, for the serious hobbyist, NASM's collections provide 
technological guidance, as for example in the construction of full sized and 
model aircraft. 

Research is a basic prerequisite to the educational uses of the collections. 
Research and education are inseparable. Students working toward advanced 
degrees may use the study collections in any of the several Smithsonian museums. 
In NMNH their thesis research may be directed by museum staff members who serve 


as adjunct faculty at various universities. Students working under these 
staff members may also receive practical training in museological techniques 
and learn research and field methods through hands-on practice. At the Freer, 
graduate students from the University of Michigan, recipients of Freer Fellowships 
are able to spend a year preparing their dissertations based on objects in 
that museum's collection. Another example of museum/ student alliance occurred 
with HMSG's recently opened exhibit of the works of Thomas Eakins . Supervised 
by the museum's curatorial staff, graduate students in American art history at 
the University of Delaware conducted research for the published catalogue that 
accompanied the exhibit. 

Education at the primary, secondary, and undergraduate levels is enriched 
by visits to the exhibits and examination of selected objects or specimens in 
the collections of the various museums of the Institution. These exhibits are 
usually interpreted by their labels which can be elaborated upon further by 
school staff or the museum's education department. Guided tours, audiovisual 
and written materials, lectures and other special programs are also provided 
by the museums as an integral part of their educational offerings. Further, 
almost all Smithsonian museums have vigorous loan programs. NASM loans large 
numbers of aircraft and spacecraft to other museums. NMNH loans specimens to 
other museums and to universities for study and interpretation by students and 
faculty. Special traveling exhibitions containing objects from the collections 
and benefiting from staff expertise are circulated throughout the United 
States by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Serivce. 

The general public has its main contact with the museum collections 
through the various exhibition programs. Exhibits are backed by solid research 


and are presented so as to enhance education and enjoyment. Materials from 
the collections selected for exhibition represent either outstanding or typical 
examples of some aspect of scientific or cultural development. Their presentation 
is designed in order to provide information or insights that might not be 
obvious from the object or specimen alone. In most cases only a small portion 
of each collection is exhibited at any one time, the remainder being maintained 
for use in future exhibitions or for the archival or research uses discussed 

Museums provide the mechanism for selecting and gathering together the 
objects and specimens that record our past and present. They provide the 
means to maintain and preserve this record while using the collections for 
research, education, and exhibition. The objects and specimens in the collections 
of the Smithsonian Institution are made available in as many ways and to as 
varied a public as is consistent with protecting them, and the record they 
include, for the benefit of future generations. 



The formal process by which an object or specimen is entered officially 
into a museum collection is commonly known as accessioning . The accessioning 
of an item results from the carefully arrived at decision that the item is of 
museum quality and that the Institution will preserve it and make it available 
for study, research and display. Accessioning is generally intended to be a 
final action. However deaccessioning is provided for in the Institution's 
documentation procedures. It is customarily exercised only after the most 
carefuly scrutiny and only if unusual circumstances are present. Hence it is 
limited to a relatively small number of cases. 

Since accesioning is meant to be a permanent step, it is important that 
questionable, inappropriate or otherwise unwanted items be filtered out 
in advance . Accessioning is therefore the last step in the acquisition process 
and is preceded by rigorous curatorial and administrative evaluation of each 
item against such criteria as: 

o Scholarly importance, scientific, historical or aesthetic 

o Quality 
o Condition 
o Preservability 

o Appropriateness to the collections 
o Need for such an object or specimen in a 
particular collection 


o Provenance* 

o Offerer's legal title and right to convey either 

by gift or purchase 
o Possibility that the item may be stolen cultural 

property or property illegally exported from 

a foreign country 
o Cost of acquisition (purchase price and/or transportation 

costs) and availability of funds 
o Space available to accommodate it 


In several respects the methods used by. a museum curator to find suitable 
objects or specimens for acquisition are similar to those used by a publisher 
to find suitable manuscripts. Each has certain definite requirements and 
criteria which require close examination of the available items. Each is apt 
to receive many unsolicited offers yet neither can afford to disregard any 
offer without careful investigation and inquiry for fear of missing an 
extraordinary opportunity. 

* Museum practice goes considerably beyond the standard dictionary definition 
of provenance as the source or origin of something. Provenance information 
usually amounts to a brief history of an object or specimen. For a work of 
art or an artifact it will include such things as: when, where and by whom 
it was created; who the previous owners were; and why the object is significant. 
For a scientific specimen it will include complete details on when, 'where, how 
and by whom it was collected. 


Because a great many persons are anxious to give or sell things to museums, 
a substantial share of a curator's time must be devoted to evaluating (and 
usually declining) unsolicited offers. This is especially true at the 
Smithsonian because it is such a well-known national repository and because 
people take special pride in making contributions to it. The Institution not 
only receives offers addressed directly to specific departments but also many 
general letters, phone calls and visitor inquiries from people who have things 
to offer. These inquiries are handled by a corps of volunteers who operate 
information desks and provide referral services for mail inquiries and telephone 
calls. These trained volunteers, who number over 400, refer such inquiries to 
the most appropriate curators. 

Smithsonian curators not only evaluate these unsolicited offers but also 
exercise initiative and take positive actions to search out things needed to 
fill gaps in their collections and to identify classes of materials whose 
preservation warrants serious consideration. For instance, those who manage 
collections containing works of art or other objects available through commercial 
channels peruse dealer catalogs, advertisements and similar sources of 
information. Since acquisition funds are limited, purchasing is resorted to 
only when exceptional items are available and no donor can be found. 

In the case of a scientific collection, adequate information on where, 
how and when a scientific specimen was collected can be as important as the 
specimen itself. For this reason a specimen offered by a dealer or an amateur 
collector may be of little value to a curatorial scientist even though it is 
in perfect condition. While some specimens are obtained from commercial and 
amateur sources, most of the material for Smithsonian scientific collections 


is obtained in other ways. Occasionally, for instance, a well-documented 
private collection, assembled by a scientist of known reputation, will become 
available as a gift or bequest and will be accepted intact. However, most 
scientific specimens are collected in the field by staff scientists and brought 
back with supporting field documentation, for subsequent evaluation. Whether 
collections are the result of field activity or of donations, they are subjected 
to curatorial evaluation against the criteria listed above. Individual specimens 
selected for accessioning are processed into the collections according to 
established procedures and the remainders are disposed of as described later 
in this chapter. 


When an item has satisfied the criteria and been approved for accessioning 
it is registered officially in the office of the museum's registrar.* At this 
time all documents pertinent to the item's origin and ownership, the museum's 
title to it, etc., are forwarded to the registrar's office for the creation of 
a dossier (commonly referred to as an accession file ) . Both the item and its 
file are henceforth identified by a unique number (accession number) assigned 
by the registrar. The process of assigning the number and the creation of the 
dossier is referred to as accessioning . 

* Each Smithsonian museum has its own registrar. Coordination is provided by 
a central registrar through an organization designated as the Registrarial 
Council. Additional information about registrarial activities and responsibilities 
can be found in Appendix D on information management. 


The accession files are maintained by the registrar as archival records 
and are the official inventory records for every item in the museum's collection. 
Once an item has been accessioned, a written record must be placed in its 
accession file every time it is moved to a new location, loaned, placed on 
exhibit, conserved or otherwise subjected to a change. If the item is ever 
officially withdrawn from the collection, a record of that action stating the 
date of and reasons for the withdrawal is placed in its accession file. The 
entry of such a record is what is referred to as deaccessioning . (See below 
for a related discussion of deaccessioning.)* 


As a rule anything delivered physically to the Smithsonian for evaluation 
and subsequently rejected is returned to the offerer. There are times, however, 
when other disposal alternatives are selected. For instance, occasionally the 
donor of a small collection will decline a museum's counter-offer to return 
the unwanted items and will agree in writing to permit the museum to dispose 
of them as it sees fit. In other cases, such as when unwanted specimens are 
culled from the proceeds of a scientific expedition, there may be no offerer 
to return them to. 

* The foregoing explanation refers only to the normal practice of assigning 
a distinct accession number to each individual object or specimen. Occasionally 
a closely related group of items, particularly scientific specimens, will be 
accessioned together as a set and assigned a common accession number. If, for 
instance, 103 specimens are accessioned together they constitute one accession 
but 103 accessioned specimens . 


Sometimes the museum can hold such items temporarily and exchange them, 
with collectors or with other museums, for things the museum does want. For 
instance, NASM is now holding several aircraft engines which are of museum 
quality but which are duplicates of others already in the accessioned collection. 
Since the donors have given permission, NASM will eventually arrange for 
appropriate exchanges. When a Smithsonian museum makes such exchanges it is 
customary to credit the donor of the original item with the donation of the 
item for which it was exchanged. 

In three of the Smithsonian's museums, items inappropriate for regular 
accessioning and not returnable to donors are placed in comparatively small 
ancillary collections called study collections . The term study collection has 
varying meanings in Smithsonian museums. In seven of the nine bureaus (including 
Cooper-Hewitt) the term study collection , or the term research collection , is 
commonly applied to the behind-the-scenes portion of a regular accessioned 
collection, i.e., to that portion of the collection which is not on exhibit. 

The Freer, for instance, maintains a study collection of approximately 
5,000 items consisting of ceramic shards from known sites, fragments of 
ceremonial bronzes, woodblock prints, etc. Each object in the Freer study 
collection is assigned a unique number different from the regular Freer accession 

The NPG, whose primary objective is to collect portraits from life in 
various media of people who have achieved national prominence, maintains a 
study collection of works of two types: portraits not painted from life and 
portraits of promising people who have not yet achieved national prominence. 


Each portrait is assigned a collection number with the prefix S_ (study) to 
distinguish it from a portrait in the regular collection. If any of the 
subjects do achieve national prominence their life portraits are removed from 
the study collection and accessioned into the regular collection. 

Cooper-Hewitt maintains an ancillary collection that is sometimes referred 
to as its study collection and sometimes as its use collection . Individual 
numbers are not assigned to the items in this collection but records are kept 
of them. It contains prints, samples and other items not of museum quality 
but nevertheless useful as representative examples of design or decorative 
arts. Unlike the Freer and NPG collections, which are intended for use by 
advanced scholars, the Cooper-Hewitt collection is organized primarily for use 
by students and design practitioners. 

Still another kind of collection is found at NMNH where several departments 
maintain what they call school collections . A school collection consists of 
specimens that are not needed for any regular collection but are otherwise 
sound representative examples. Typically a department will have a few storage 
cabinets containing such specimens and will make them available to schools, 
colleges and universities. Specimens are issued to a school on indefinite 
loan. When returned they go back into the department's school collection for 
subsequent loan to other educational institutions. Inventory records are not 
usually kept for these specimens, but whenever a loan is made the material is 
transmitted with a Shipping Invoice which describes and enumerates the 


Finally, there are instances when unwanted items can not be returned, 
exchanged or incorporated into study or school collections. These are situations 
involving objects or specimens that are damaged, unpreservable or otherwise 
useless. Unless they contain salvageable components of significant intrinsic 
value they are discarded, and the action is recorded. 


Historically the Smithsonian has always maintained statistics on items 
accessioned into its permanent collections but it has not compiled statistical 
records on declined offers nor on objects and specimens rejected during pre- 
accessioning evaluation. No records are made of objects declined in telephone 
calls and conversations between curators and offerers. Although carbon copies 
of letters declining offers are placed routinely in departmental correspondence 
files, no attempt is made to separate them for statistical purposes. After 
objects or specimens have been evaluated, the ones selected are automatically 
counted at the time of accessioning but those that have been rejected ordinarily 
are not counted. Whether it would even be useful to compile statistics on 
rejections is open to question. Requiring curators to create records of all 
these transactions and then synthesizing the results would place an appreciable 
burden on them and take time that might be put to more constructive use. But 
the overriding reason for not doing so has been the absence of any pressing 
need for the information in the day-to-day management of the Institution. 


A need did arise, however, during this study when it was found desirable 
to show, in some quantitative way, the discretion exercised by the Institution 
in responding to collecting opportunities. Curators who were questioned 
during the study generally agreed that they decline more offers than they 
accept. This consensus was confirmed by the previous experience of the General 
Counsel's Office in processing bequests and potential gifts. The Smithsonian 
is often named as a legatee, but each bequest processed through the General 
Counsel's Office is first referred for review to the appropriate curator. 
Similarly, prospective donors who seek guidance from the General Counsel are 
directed first to the curatorial staff to ascertain the desirability of the 
prof f erred items. While it is the experience of the General Counsel's Office 
that a high degree of selectivity is exercised by the curators with regard to 
both bequests and prospective gifts, few firm statistics are available. 

One set of figures was offered by NMNH's Anthropology. Department. That 
department had documented an effort to reduce certain large archeological 
ceramic collections to manageable sizes prior to accessioning. The data 
provided by the department, with the comment that no other similar effort had 
been made during the past ten years, contained notes on three collections as 

o British Guiana (Guyana) 

Original quantity - 12 quarter-units* 
Accessioned - 7 " 
Rejected - 5 " 42% 

* A quarter-unit is a common type of storage case which holds approximately 15 
cubic feet of material. 


o Rio Napo (Ecuador) 

Original quantity - 16 quarter-units 

Accessioned - 9 " 

" - 4 large urns 

Rejected - 9 quarter-units 43.7% 

o Coastal Ecuador (Valdivia) 

Original quantity - 18 quarter-units 

Accessioned - 8 " 

Rejected - 10 " 55% 

Another set of figures was provided by NASM's Aeronautics Department. 
These happened to be available because that department became interested in 
demonstrating the fallacy of the popular notion that the Smithsonian will 
accept anything offered to it. During a six-month period in 1976-77, records 
were kept of what was rejected and why. The records show the following: 
Obj ects Offered Declined Percentage 
Aircraft 19 16 84% 

Engines 26 23 88% 

Models 91 80 88% 

Propellers 17 16 94% 

During the same period the department also declined a set of aircraft wings, 
an unspecified number of weapons and a painting of a minor figure in aircraft 
history as well as seven batches of flight clothing, uniforms, insignia and 
miscellaneous flight memorabilia. 


The records kept on this project give the reasons for rejection in each 
case and amplify the selection criteria listed on pages 13-14. Following are 
some representative comments: 

o Really a reproduction and does not belong at NASM 

o Already have one in the collection 

o Not historically significant 

o No requirement 

o No great significance; difficult to store and display 

o Too large to exhibit; not of practical importance 

o Would-be donor made stipulation that it must be on permanent 

o Can be recorded for history by documentation 
o Not of sufficient historical or technical interest 
o We do not collect this type of unit insignia. Collected 

by Air Force Museum 
o Size and weight make it too impractical to store and handle 


In an effort to develop additional information on selection and disposition 
processes the CPM committee arranged with NMNH for several special studies 
based on collections at hand, some accessioned, some not. NMNH was selected 
because its scientific specimens are often collected for their inherent character- 


istics rather than for cultural or historic reasons. (Unlike a valuable 
painting or the former possession of an important person, for instance, an 
unwanted scientific specimen can be disposed of through exchange or be discarded, 
if the case warrants.) 

NMNH selected the Department of Anthropology for these studies because 
its activities are fairly representative of the processes and controls in 
effect in other NMNH departments. Anthropology, which recently established an 
Anthropology Collections Advisory Committee, investigated the matter in several 

One study involved interviewing curators to obtain estimates of how much 
they accepted as potential accessions from offers or incoming groups of specimens. 
These estimates show acceptance rates ranging from 10% to 30% (average 25%) 
with concomitant rejection rates of 70% to 90%, The next level of review, the 
Collections Advisory Committee, approved an estimated average of 85% of 
curatorially-recommended specimens, thereby reducing the net estimate of 
acceptance to 21% of the original body of material. 

An ethnographic collection of 577 donated non-accessioned items was 
evaluated with the following results: 65% of the specimens were accepted for 
accessioning by the Department of Anthropology; 31% were placed in the Department's 
school collection; 3% were transferred to other ST collections for accessioning; 
and 1% were given to the Conservation Laboratory as a source of materials to 
be used in restoring other specimens. 


A case study was made of material recently excavated at and brought back 
from the Jones-Miller Site in northeastern Colorado, the location of a Paleo- 
Indian bison kill which occurred 7,000 to 10,000 years ago. Although this 
culling project has not yet been completed, enough work has been done to 
predict that approximately 40% of the material brought back will be discarded, 

Pilot inventories of a variety of accessioned collections were conducted 
and the conclusion reached that less than 1% of the items examined during the 
process warranted deaccessioning and disposal. 

These statistics are presented here because they relate to the present 
discussion of acceptance rates. A fuller report on the studies appears in 
Appendix C. The overall objective of these studies was to provide, in case- 
study form, an explanation of some of the processes involved in managing 


The General Counsel's Office reviewed recent files on bequests seeking 
instances where a multitude of items were left to the Institution by a donor, 
The following are examples of the disposition of such bequests. 

Example A was a bequest of 143 items. Curators having interest in the 
items were contacted. Out of 143 items, only 24 were accepted for the 


Example B was a bequest of memorabilia which occupied some 15,000 cubic 
feet of storage space. After curatorial review, 1,000 cubic feet of space was 

Example C consisted of practically a whole household of antique furnishings 
Upon curatorial review of 106 items, only 12 were selected for the collections. 



Except in the case of the Freer Gallery, where specific procedures were 
formulated by Charles Freer in 1919, written collection policies are comparative- 
ly new. Certain kinds of collection controls are inherent in the charters of 
HMSG and NPG. NCFA formalized certain controls in 1964 with a policy statement 
that was revised in 1965 and again in 1970. Cooper-Hewitt generated a policy 
statement a few years after entering the Smithsonian complex and NASM developed 
some firm procedures shortly after being organized in its present form. 
However, the two bureaus representing the oldest and largest of the Institution's 
collections operated without formal written collection policies until at least 
1973 when NMHT issued its own. 


The absence of written policies in NMHT and NMNH was not so much an 
oversight as an intentional adherence to a tradition established by Secretary 
Joseph Henry in the Institution's earliest years. Although the Smithsonian 
charter* provided for the acquisition and management of museum collections in 
art, history and science, Henry regarded the development of a general public 
museum as secondary to another obligation. He felt strongly that the best way 
to increase knowledge was to conduct research and that the best way to diffuse 

* See Act of 1846, 20 U.S.C. 41, et seq. 


it among men was to publish the results. Consequently he encouraged SI 
scientists to pursue research projects and gave them great freedom in choosing 
their subjects. Their research centered heavily on the natural sciences, and 
usually required them to collect and study certain kinds of specimens. Henry 
understood this and approved of it. In fact, their specimen collections seem 
to have been the only ones that ever earned his full approval. 

By the time the U.S. National Museum came into existence Henry's policies 
had been practiced for some 30 years. The personnel and collections available 
for assignment to it featured an overwhelming concentration in the natural 
sciences and an emerging second-priority interest in technology. These two 
dominant components gradually evolved into the museums known today as NMHT and 
NMNH. Through the years, the U.S. National Museum continued to operate according 
to the Henry philosophy that research was the primary function and collecting 
was an activity intended to support it. Scientists and technology-oriented 
scholars were hired as curators, and the individual research specialties of 
these curators determined the growth vectors of the collections. The Smithsonian 
earned a worldwide reputation among scientists and other scholars who came to 
depend on its collections for use in their own research.* 

* The design of exhibits has not been neglected. During the past twenty 
years in particular, both museums have attracted large numbers of visitors 
with exhibits of increasing sophistication and educational value. However, 
because exhibit materials are usually selected from among objects and specimens 
already collected for other purposes, the impact of exhibition requirements 
on collecting philosophy has been a secondary one. 


To a great extent this basic situation prevails in other Smithsonian 
museums but the need to depend heavily on the expertise of individual curators 
is felt most strongly in NMHT and NMNH, where the multidisciplinary character- 
istics of the collections force increasing generalization at each higher level 
of management. 

In the other seven collecting bureaus, where the collections are substantially 
monodisciplinary , the need to depend on individual curators exists but is less 
critical. Partly because of this (and partly because of charters, legislation, 
etc., which contain provisions requiring higher-level approvals) management 
personnel became involved in collections decisions almost as soon as these 
bureaus were established. With one or two possible exceptions, the recency of 
policy documentation can be attributed to the fact that these bureaus have 
only existed in their present configurations for relatively few years.* 

* The fact that all seven of these bureaus came into existence after Joseph 
Henry's time further reflects the far-reaching effects of the management 
philosophies fostered by his administration. Even the Zoo, established in 
1889 by Samuel Langley, the third Smithsonian Secretary, was considered outside 
the scope of scientific pursuit as it was viewed in the Institution's early 
years. Most notable, however, was the long-standing low priority assigned to 
the Smithsonian's early obligations to art and nontechnological history. The 
original collection that evolved into what is now NCFA, for instance, arrived 
at the Smithsonian in 1858. Through the years that followed it received only 
minor attention. From 1865 to 1895 it was off the Smithsonian premises on 
loan to the Corcoran and the Library of Congress. From 1907 to 1920 it was 
the part-time responsibility of the head curator of the Anthropology Department 
in the U.S. National Museum. Although it was made the responsibility of a 
separate bureau in 1920 it did not achieve prominence until it was moved to 
its present location in 1968. 


As an examination of the statements exhibited in Appendix B of this 
report will show, full formalization of policies even in some of these seven 
bureaus has been slow in developing. Nevertheless the intent of each Bureau 
to maintain administrative control over its collecting policies and procedures 
is clear. 


During the past few years conditions have made it mandatory for the two 
largest bureaus to examine all possible means of resolving their increasingly 
critical space problems. The three major interrelated possibilities are: 

o Securing additional space 

o Lengthening the range of planning for collection growth. 

o Increasing the involvement of management in acquisition decisions. 

The first of these methods has already been discussed in this report as 
the stimulus for the CPM study.* The second requires careful analysis of 
collection growth, which is discussed in the next chapter. The third, and the 
one that has increasingly attracted management's attention, is the need for 
more clearly defined collections policies. 

* See pg. 1 


According to comments from NMHT, for instance, until about 1973 "each 
curator had pretty much first and final say regarding the collection process, 
though the department chairman usually saw the appropriate papers and could do 
something if he wanted to. In practice there was not likely to be a problem 
unless the object was of great size or if large front-end costs were involved." 
In that year, however, the Director of NMHT established a collections committee 
and work began on the policy statement which is reproduced in Appendix B of 
this report. 

Similarly, as shown in the report from NMNH, in the past the scientific 
staff had been given considerable freedom in determining the numbers and kinds 
of new specimens to be added to the collections. However, "because of the 
great increase in the number of curators in the Museum since 1955, and the 
rapidly increasing cost of maintenance and storage of the collections, it has 
become necessary for the Museum administration to be more involved in deciding 
what can be added to the collections."* Consequently NMNH has developed a new 
policy that involves both peer and administrative review of proposed additions 
to the collections. (The statement of this policy appears in Appendix B.) 

The collections committee at NMHT is a museum-wide committee with 
representation from its registrar's office as well as from each curatorial 
department.** Several NMNH departments are developing their own internal 

* For additional information see Appendix A. 

** At NMHT the registrar's office is officially designated the Collections 
Management Office and the registrar is the manager of that office. The NMHT 
policy statement does not stipulate specifically that each curatorial department 
must be represented. It states that the committee shall consist of from five to 
seven members plus the registrar. There are five curatorial departments, all 
of which were represented on the committee at the time of this study. 


collections conmiittees and consideration is also being given to a museum- wide 
committee. The rationale is that, while a departmental committee may help a 
department manage its share of the resources more efficiently, only a museum- 
wide committee can address itself to matters affecting the identification of 
priorities and the allocation of all the museum's resources among the 

It is recognized that peer review has the principal benefit of preventing 
collections from exceeding the limits of existing resources at the time of a 
recommendation. Under present guidelines the functions of existing or proposed 
collections committees make no explicit provision for the essential element of 
planning. The requirement that each recommendation of the NMHT Collections 
Committee be referred to the NMHT Director for decision and the allusion in 
the NMNH account to administrative review, as well as peer review, both 
acknowledge the need to refer significant decisions to higher management, 
where planning responsibility ultimately rests. However, planning is provided 
for only by implication. Whether long-range planning for collection growth 
should be addressed in a collections policy or whether it should be provided 
for in another way is perhaps a moot question. The matter is discussed more 
fully in Chapter V of this report. Meanwhile it must be noted here that 
planning is not mentioned explicitly in any of the Smithsonian's collections 
policy statements, neither those of the bureaus nor those of the Institution 



The acquisition and disposition policies of its museums, like other trust 
functions of the Institution, are under the ultimate supervision of the Board 
of Regents or of such boards or commissions as may have been established by 
statute (e.g., the HMSG Board of Trustees). In practice, specific decisions 
about museum property are made at various levels appropriate to the nature of 
the property and the potential impact of its acquisition or disposition. Such 
decisions range from numerous daily curatorial determinations about small 
objects of minor intrinsic value to major upper-echelon deliberations involving 
the assumption of responsibility for new programs or for significant additions 
to or possibly deletions from existing collections. 

Because of the diversity of its units the Institution has not found it 
practicable to promulgate a uniform collections management policy. The process 
by which worthy specimens are culled from the proceeds of an archeological 
expedition, for instance, is quite different from the process of evaluating a 
major work of art for possible acquisition. Consequently each bureau has 
found it advisable to develop specific policies and procedures tailored to its 
needs. These, in turn, may be further refined by instructions from the Board 
of Regents, the Secretary, or the appropriate member of the Executive Committee. 

Typical examples of such instructions are the Smithsonian Institution Policy 
on Museum Acquisitions (February 23, 1974) and a memorandum from Secretary 
Ripley to the directors of NCFA and NPG (May 22, 1970).'^ These documents 
relate to international transfers of national and cultural property and to the 

* Reproduced in Appendix B of this report. 


sale or exchange of works of art. If, however, the Institution had already 
developed the broad outline of an overall policy on collections policies it 
might have stipulated that instructions such as these be incorporated in the 
policies of the bureaus concerned. Also, if such a policy had existed, and if 
it had been reviewed periodically by SI staff personnel, they might have 
noticed that some of these instructions would apply to Cooper-Hewitt, HMSG and 
perhaps other bureaus. It so happens that certain of these instructions are 
incorporated in the Cooper-Hewitt statement. However, there is no Institution- 
wide program designed to make sure such instructions are incorporated in 
writing in all bureau policies, though, of course, they apply to all museum 

As far as bureau policies themselves are concerned, they have now been 
reduced to writing in all cases. The individual statements are reproduced in 
Appendix B of this report but it might be appropriate here to direct attention 
to a few of their characteristics. It can be observed, for instance, that 
very little uniformity exists. Some of them resemble common forms of policy- 
and-procedure documentation, some are collected extracts from charters and 
laws while others are essentially informal explanations of how things are 
normally done. 


References to the authority levels required for acquisition or 
deacquisition decisions are somewhat diverse. In some cases external boards 


or commissions have been established to control such matters in specific 
museums. These are designated by the general term museum body in the following 
tabulation of how many times bureau policies mention levels above those of 
individual curators : 

o Director, museum body and higher SI administration (C-H) 

o Museum body and higher SI administration (Freer, NPG) 

o Director and higher SI administration (NMNH) 

o Director and museum body (HMSG) 

o Director only (NASM, NMHT, NZP) 

o No mention (NCFA) 

In practice the Institution's Executive Committee, the Secretary and the 
Board of Regents d6 indeed become involved in certain major decisions about 
the acquisition of large collections or about new programs with significant 
potential impact on collections. Usually such involvement is prompted by 
special circumstances. Either a prospective new venture is proposed at a 
level higher than that of a bureau director at the outset or a bureau has been- 
offered an unusual opportunity that appears to warrant consultation at a 
higher level. However, there seems to have been no attempt to stipulate, in 
any single promulgated statement of Institution policy, the criteria to be 
used by all in determining just when and under what circumstances such matters 
must be reviewed at top SI administrative levels. 

The previously-mentioned memorandum from the Secretary to NCFA and NPG 
informs the directors of these two museums of a resolution by the Board of 
Regents stipulating the approval required for sale or exchange of a work of 
art valued at more than $1000 and also the approvals required for sale or 


exchange of a work valued at more than $50,000. The CPM coramittee did not 
find similar instructions to Cooper-Hewitt. However, the Cooper-Hewitt's own 
policy statement does contain these provisions. 

In certain cases bureau policies stipulate criteria to be used internally. 

The NMHT policy, for example, requires that a curator refer a proposed 

acquisition to that museum's collections committee if: 

o It involves a collection in excess of 20 objects; OR 

o It occupies a space exceeding 10 cubic feet; OR 

o Packing, transportation or storage costs will exceed $100. 

The collections committee must consider each such referral and make its 

recommendation to the NMHT Director, with whom the final decision rests. 

The NMNH statement limits unreviewed acquisitions by an individual curator 
to a total volume not exceeding 100 cubic feet per year. It permits each 
department chairman to decide on larger collections exceeding this minimum 
level but remaining within the limits of the department's own allocation of 
space resources. Still larger collections must be referred to the NMNH Director, 
and for "truly larger" collections the NMNH Director must consult with and 
seek guidance from the Assistant Secretary for Science and the Secretary of 
the Institution. 

The HMSG policy permits its director to purchase on behalf of the HMSG 
trustees any single work costing $10,000 or less. It limits such purchases to 
one third of the museum's federal acquisition funds and $20,000 of its trust 
funds in any given year. 


After 120 years of reasonably close adherence to its traditional philosophies 
the Institution passed two major management milestones in the past two decades. 
One was a decisive acknowledgment of its original obligations to art and non- 
technological history. The other was acknowledgment of the need to develop 
collecting policies with management controls. 

The introduction of management controls has been slow, tentative and 
cautious. Curators interviewed during the CPM study often expressed anxiety 
about the possibility that attempts to introduce management controls would 
lead to the imposition of arbitrary ceilings on collecting. Most managers 
realize, however, that arbitrary ceilings would negate the purposes and dissipate 
the benefits of museum collections. They knox>? that collection growth is 
inevitable but they maintain that it must result from an intellectual plan, in 
accord with an overall Institutional goal rather than result from random 

The analysis of the written collections policies in Appendix B has made 
it apparent that the policies established to date do not provide adequate 
support for a program of planned collection growth. At least three elements 
appear to be either missing or insufficiently covered: collecting objectives, 
a periodic review of the status of collections and the impact they have on 
space allocation and staffing, and, lastly. Institutional coordination. 

The development of broad collecting objectives by each museum would 
enable curators and bureau officials to focus more clearly on gaps in their 


holdings and permit the Institution to begin an overall review of its potential 
future needs in space, resources and fields of collecting. With nearly one 
hundred separately identifiable collecting fields to be addressed among the 
bureaus and their subordinate units throughout the Smithsonian it would be a 
useful but formidable task. Nevertheless, in the long run it can be achieved. 
The greatest difficulty could be expected in NMHT and NMNH, where curators 
have always been encouraged to consider collecting as an adjunct to research 
rather than as an end in itself. But the distinction does not preclude the 
formulation of collecting objectives. 

Existing fiscal and administrative practices do impact on collection 
activities. The common practice of placing dollar limits on single purchases 
at various management levels serves to keep procurement authority commensurate 
with management responsibility but it does not necessarily limit the aggregate 
of an organization's annual expenditures for collections. This is controlled 
by budgets. In addition, the fundamental precept of government procurement 
prohibiting the breakdown of a single-purpose contract into smaller ones in 
order to circumvent regulations provides, in itself, another control. 

However, because most things added to the collections are obtained through 
donations or similar no-purchase actions, acquisitions must be controlled by 
mechanisms other than ordinary purchasing budgets. Although curators are 
required to seek approvals for acquisitions exceeding certain quantitative 
limits, the cumulative impact of smaller acquisitions by many curators could 
affect space resources significantly. 


The nearest approach to space budgeting so far conceived by any SI bureau 
is the new NMNH policy restricting each curator to 100 cubic feet per year. 
This policy may have promising possibilities for other collections in other 
museums . 

Even with such restrictions it would seem that periodic administrative 
review might be helpful. Knowing how much space was available and how much 
had been consumed each year, for instance, would permit management to plan 
future space needs more effectively. 

While there is common agreement that the bureau level is the most appropriate 
one for detailed collections policies, it is evident that many inconsistencies 
could be eliminated by an overall policy on bureau collections policies. Some 
of these inconsistencies have already been alluded to earlier in this chapter. 
Undoubtedly more could be identified by an editorial inventory of the elements 
present or absent in the various documents and, just as the time seems to have 
come for deeper involvement of bureau- management in collection decisions, 
perhaps the time has come also for a deeper involvement of SI administrative 
authorities in the formulation of collection policies. 



Whatever policies are elected to govern the growth of collections, they 
have important implications for space and an impact on the overall management 
of a museum. What one might describe as "the care and feeding" of a collection 
is a constant process. It requires intellectual focus and, generally, daily 
physical monitoring. Hence in assessing space needs and staffing requirements, 
an understanding of the nature of the collections involved, of the pattern of 
their growth and the future directions that this growth might take are essential 
Equally essential is a need to predict growth in broad terms, while realizing 
that there are always unknowns and that great care must be exercised in making 
judgements on the extent to which collections may have attained near complete- 
ness and to what extent there are critical gaps which limit the quality of 
interpretation or research potential. 

Hence predicting the future growth of a collection is a hazardous process, 
and merely extrapolating graphs of past growth is a mindless, mechanical 
exercise. Thus, an attempt has been made, in the following pages and in the 
graphs incorporated in this section, to compare mathematically derived curves 
based on historical collection data with curves based on curatorial assessments 
of specific collecting needs and prospects. The comparisons have been made in 
an effort to demonstrate that present knowledge, carefully weighed and reviewed 
at several levels, is an essential ingredient in the prediction of future 
collection growth. In the graphs, extending to the year 2015, the forecasts 
based on curatorial assessments are represented by bold lines. 


These charts are presented with diffidence, but with the conviction that 
they demonstrate that the curatorial staff of the Institution is overseeing 
the development of collections in a professional way and that it is subjecting 
them to a periodic re-examination based upon their increasing experience, new 
knowledge, and agreed upon policies. 


The first attempt to forecast space requirements in the study was based 
on working papers prepared during an earlier investigation related to the 
proposed Museum Support Center (MSC) . Six of the bureaus had been asked to 
estimate growth rates for the next ten years and their estimates were applied 
to measurements of currently available storage space in each bureau. Apparently 
assuming linear growth, the MSC investigators applied the appropriate rate to 
the number of square feet devoted to collection storage in each bureau as of 
1976 and multiplied the result by ten to obtain a calculated figure for 
additional storage space needed by 1986. 

For the purpose of developing crude projections of possible collection 

growth the percentage rates developed for the MSC investigation were applied 

experimentally to the totals for objects and specimens in the six bureaus. 

Because the decade from 1976 to 1986 seemed too short for a long-range view 

the rates were applied for the period extending to 2015. And because the 

assumption of linear growth had not yet been confirmed, curiosity prompted 

compounding the rates annually for comparison. The following results were 




1976 size 






size (compound) 










42; 900 























117 = 




These results were unsatisfactory for a number of reasons, all relating 
to the absence of any rationale for confirming the validity of either set of 
figures. Discussions with curators revealed that many of them believed net 
growth had always been and always would be essentially linear. However, 
except for a few experiments in the charting of historical growth conducted 
in some bureaus, it appeared that no thorough statistical analysis of growth 
had ever been conducted and no analysis of any kind had been made on an 
Institution-wide basis. 

Some members of the CPM committee felt that knowledge of past growth 
patterns would not only settle the question of linear vs. exponential growth 
but provide other clues helpful in making projections. Consequently it 
appointed a task force to compile collection-size statistics for all nine 
bureaus, going as far back in the past as possible. 


It has been the practice at the Smithsonian for many years to prepare 
annual statistics on the number of objects or specimens in each collection, 
Figures provided by the curators in each museum are included in a report 


compiled by the museum's registrar for submission to the Secretary. Until 
1969 these statistical reports were published in the Smithsonian Institution 
Annual Report (now the Smithsonian Year ). Although the registrar's reports 
are no longer published they are still submitted annually to the Secretary. 
Historical statistics for use in the study were compiled from these reports. 

This procedure caused some problems in the cases of NMHT and NMNH. Some 
of the collections now in these two bureaus were started in the 1800' s and 
administered by the old U.S. National Museum. In 1958 the collections of the 
National Museum were divided into two major groups to form the separate 
museums. The desire to trace growth in these two museums farther back than 
1958 called attention to individual collections. Since statistics for these 
particular collections were always provided in the annual reports, the task 
force decided to use them. The original plan was to add up the figures to 
calculate pre-1958 totals for NMHT and NMNH, but this approach was later 
abandoned when the task force decided that statistics on the individual 
collections might be more useful. The effects of this decision are reflected 
in the tables and graphs presented on pages 64-125. 

Effect of object size on space requirements 

The compilation of statistics for individual collections called attention 
to the relative sizes of objects and specimens. Very small items sometimes 
represented large proportions, numerically, of a museum's holdings while very 
large ones represented small proportions. Calculation showed that stamps and 
coins, for instance, accounted for 87% of the NMHT total and entomology specimens 
accounted for 35% of the NMNH total. 


While this had always been known the consequences had not been fully 
evaluated, and it had been considered that in a large museum size variations 
tended to cancel each other out. The comparatively large variations shown in 
these calculations introduced enough doubt about that assumption to suggest 
that space planning for every bureau might benefit from a collection-by- 
collection analysis of space needs.* 

It was not possible to pursue the analysis further since the only space 
figures available to the committee were square-foot totals for the six bureaus 
represented in the MSC working papers. Subsequently NMNH provided square-foot 
breakdowns for the seven departments that manage collections in that bureau. 
These measurements were used, along with records of the holdings in the seven 
departments, to prepare the table on page 46a While object size can be derived 
here only by inference, the table contradicts the assumption that size variations 
cancel each other out. It shows, for example, that Entomology, where the! 
items are relatively small, contains 35.7% of the museum's specimens but 
occupies only 6% of its floor area. On the other hand Vertebrate Zoology, 
where holdings include some large animal skeletons, houses only 6% of the 
specimens but occupies 28.9% of the floor area. 

* Toward the end of the CPM study, after the computer runs for the statistics 
and graphs had been completed and it was too late to start more, several 
other bureaus became interested in breaking down their statistics along the 
same lines. The NASM representative, for example, estimated that 90% of the 
cubic storage volume was occupied by aerospace vehicles which, by count, 
represented less than 10% of the collection. Similarly, NPG and NCFA began 
to think about prints, which take up far less space than some of their other 
holdings. Further investigations of size relationships can be expected to 
be made after this report has been issued so that results can be incorporated 
into the space planning and allocation effort. 


The numbers in the column labeled Area Index represent the calculated 
number of objects accommodated in each square foot of the floor space currently 
allotted to each department and were derived by simple division. Curiosity 
prompted the calculation of these numbers and they are included here only to 
introduce the notion of what might be called a cubic index . The numbers of 
objects or specimens that can be accommodated per cubic foot of space night be 
a useful planning device. If it were based on the total amount of space 
needed for storage and operations in each collection it could be applied to 
collection growth projections and used to project probable space requirements. 

It must be pointed out that the preparation of the table on page 46a was 
merely an intellectual exercise undertaken to test a hypothesis, and the 
figures in this table should be used with caution and for space planning 
purposes they must be regarded only as illustrative examples. 

Problems with the annual reports 

There is a general assumption that the historical statistics in the 
annual reports are inconsistent and sometimes unreliable. This might be 
expected since they cover a long time span and were tabulated by persons who 
no doubt had varying approaches. In the experience of the CPM task force, 
these statistics are difficult to use and sometimes misleading. It was often 
necessary to read the accompanying narratives in order to account for uncertain 
figures and occasionally necessary to consult museum registrars' records to 
find figures omitted from the reports. But on the whole the collection-size 
information, at least, seemed to be reliable. Since the CPM investigation 










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did extend back to reports from the 1800s it might be helpful to record 
a few observations here for future reference : 

Inconsistent accessions reports . One of the difficulties 
in using statistics from the annual reports was caused 
by the practice followed by some curators in reporting 
material received during a given year. They often did 
not limit their reports to objects or specimens actually 
accessioned into the permanent collections. Rather, 
they sometimes included counts of collections borrowed 
for exhibition or study, items received for evaluation 
and other things intended to be held only temporarily. 
They were usually careful to refer to the totals with 
headings like "items received" and to give particulars 
in the narrative portions of the reports. But if the - 
number recorded for current "additions" or "items 
received" is added to the previous year's collection 
total, the sum may be higher than the collection total 
reported for the current year. 

Sudden drops and jumps . Every so often a collection 
will reflect an unusually large increase or decrease. 
Such a change can usually be traced to the receipt of a 
large collection or the transfer of a collection from 
one department to another (e.g., when the collection of 
15,000 wood specimens was transferred from Agriculture 
and Mining to Botany in 1960). Or it may be the result 
of a new inventory, especially in an old collection of 
small organisms where the number of specimens is often 
derived from estimates of the contents of containers. 

Reorganizations . Collection names have appeared, 
disappeared, and reappeared in kaleidoscopic fashion 
through the years, primarily as a result of the merging 
and separating of collections. Sometimes new areas of 
research or collecting were identified. Sometimes 
certain subcollections became large enough or important 
enough to be treated separately. Sometimes departments 
were reorganized xvith resulting redistribution of 
collections and, occasionally, renaming of collections 
whose contents underwent no actual changes. 


Reorganization was the only one of the three observations having a 
significant effect on the CPM effort. As a result of identity problems the 
only one of the older collections that could clearly be traced back to the 
turn of the century was that of NZP. Some of the others could be followed 
back to the 1920s, but in several cases usable statistics only started much 
later. The wide variation in beginning years for the tables and graphs is 
the net result. 


Looking into the future is speculative by any standards, but debate 

about the most appropriate way to predict future growth in museum collections 

left no doubt that this was the most troublesome aspect of the CPM committee's 

assignment. Each member of the committee favored one or another of several 

forecasting techniques. A great deal of time was spent on efforts to achieve 

consensus until it was agreed that the committee itself could not and should 

not attempt to make firm projections. Several conclusions emerged from the 


o Growth should be projected separately for each collection 

within a museum or, alternatively, for each group of objects 
in a distinct size range." 

* The aerospace vehicles at NASM offer a typical example. They constitute 
a group falling within a distinct size range yet there is no separately 
administered aerospace vehicles collection in the NASM organization. 


o The person best equipped to decide on methodology and to use 

that methodology to make growth projections for a collection is 
the curator. The curator is most apt to know the reasons 
behind past growth patterns and the reasons why future growth 
must either conform to historical patterns or differ in some 

o Bureau managers at all levels should review curatorial 
projections and challenge any that appear to require 
justification before collection growth projections are 
incorporated into the overall space planning effort. 

o The discussions of collection growth in the CPM report, 

including the theoretical projections in the charts, should be 
viewed as sources of background data and suggested approaches 
to be used by others in planning for collection grovrt:h and 
space utilization. 

Growth projection techniques 

A number of different projection techniques were suggested to the committee. 
Because each one seems to be a variation on one or another of three basic 
procedures, this report will be limited to discussions of those three. 

Perhaps the favorite procedure among curators involves examining growth 
records for recent years, considering whether current circumstances will 
support the same kind of growth or a different kind of growth in the foreseeable 
future, and making a prediction accordingly. Usually such a prediction is 
limited to a short time, perhaps a decade, and is expressed as a percentage of 
today's collection size. Then, at the end of the next decade, the process 
begins again. 

An example of this procedure is offered by NMNH (Page A-56) . Having 

determined how many specimens had been added in each of the past three decades, 

NMNH calculated each increment as a percentage of the total collection at the 


beginning of each decade. Thus the rates were 250% of the 1945 size, 16% of 
the 1955 size and 18% of the 1965 size. Selecting the most recent decade as 
its base, NMNH divided by ten to get an average rate equal to 1.8% of the 1965 
size. After considering growth in individual collections and exercising some 
judgment about future collections the bureau estimated that 12,700,000 specimens 
would be added between 1975 and 1985. (This amounts to 22% of the 1975 size 
and would probably be expressed as an annual growth rate of 2.2%.) 

Another technique favored by some is plotting the typically jagged line 
representing past growth over a fairly long period, laying a straightedge over 
the line, adjusting it to follow a more or less central path through the 
jagged plot, and drawing a straight line extended some distance beyond the 

Both of these procedures are based on the assumption that net collection 
growth is always linear. But the historical tables of collection sizes show 
that some collections tend to grow more rapidly as they get bigger. These 
hints of e:cponential growth raised enough questions to warrant something more 
sophisticated than visual inspection of tables and graphs. 

The committee therefore enlisted the aid of a statistician and a programmer 

from the Office of Computer Services to conduct a regression analysis of the 

historical figures and use the Institution's automatic plotter to prepare 

graphs. Regression analysis amounts to an analytical version of "curve fitting" 

where mathematical calculations are used instead of visual comparisons. The 

mathematical calculations produce an equation that when plotted on graph paper 

will yield a smooth curve. That smooth curve conforms to the general directions 

taken by the actual plot. 


When a smooth theoretical curve is superimposed over a plot of actual 
growth it is possible to see the general direction growth is apt to take if 
the conditions that influenced the earlier growth continue to prevail . These 
conditions must be identified and carefully evaluated when projecting growth 
of a museum collection. For instance, if a collection grew at a gradually 
increasing net rate primarily because the number of people responsible for 
additions to that collection had also increased during the same period, the 
collection could continue to grow exponentially in the future only if the 
number of people responsible also increased exponentially. On the other hand, 
if a collection grew exponentially while staff resources remained constant 
there is still a possibility that the collection will continue to grow 

People who are not accustomed to dealing with exponential curves find it 
difficult to accept their sharp upward sweeps and tend to doubt their validity. 
This problem has already arisen in connection with the curves displayed in the 
charts. The situation is analogous to reactions prompted by the doubling of 
numbers. Low numbers in a series like 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64 and even 128 are 
easily understood, but when the series reaches 256, 512, 1024, 2048, 4096, 
etc., the rapid increases seem startling. 

With some of the curves the approximation is fairly easy to detect by 
observation; with others the closeness is not so readily apparent. The 
difficulty of observing some of the approximations can be attributed in part 
to the decision to use the automatic plotter. This computer-driven device has 


the advantage of changing the scale of each graph to permit all the images to 
be produced in the same size regardless of how great the numbers get. It has 
the disadvantage of making the actual plot so small, in order to accommodate 
large values in a theoretical plot, that the true path of the actual plot is 
hard to detect visually. 

The graph for the Freer collection on Page 57 is one that should invite no 

challenges. It confirms the assumption that growth, at least in this particular 

collection, has been linear. To test the curve fitting against the percentage 

techniques previously mentioned, calculations were performed to obtain average 

annual growth percentage: 

o Actual growth 1926-1976 0.26% of 1926 size 

o Actual growth 1966-1976 0.23% of 1966 size 
o Predicted growth 1977-2007 0.22% of 1977 size 

The closeness of these percentages tends not only to confirm the appropriateness 

of the theoretical path derived by regression analysis but also to confirm the 

validity of the average annual percentage as a forecasting device when linear 

growth is to be assumed. 




Actual Collection Sizes 
1971 92,000 

1976 101,845 

Curatorial Assessment 

At the present time the Museum is anticipating receipt of some representative 
materials in industrial design and advertising art. These acquisitions, with 
arrivals extending over the next five or six years, will cause a temporary rise 
in the growth rate. Afterward it is expected that growth will proceed at a 
fairly constant rate roughly conforming to the path of the statistical projection 
but at a slightly higher level. 

It should be noted that there will be apparent contradictions between the 
figures used for these projections and figures appearing in various publications 
referring to the Cooper-Hewitt collection. The differences are manifestations 
of a change in recording philosophy. Before Cooper-Hewitt became a Smithsonian 
bureau it was not uncommon for a set of related pieces to be recorded and counted 
as a single entity even though certain individual items in such a set might 
have important design characteristics of their own. Because some items were 
indeed recorded and counted individually, collection-size figures still represent 
mixtures of sets and singles. Estimates have been made from time to time in 
order to determine the approximate number of significant single items in the 
collection, and the figures obtained through these estimates are of course higher 
than those shown here. 







60000. .. 

140000. .. 









1970. 1975. 1980. 1985- 1990. 1995- 2000. 2005- 2010. 2015- 202. 




Actual Collection Sizes 
1923 15,942 

1976 17,842 

Curatorial Assessment 

"The projected curve indicating the probable future growth of the collections 
in the Freer Gallery of Art, conforms to our own calculations. The Gallery's 
acquisition policy has always been guided by an unswerving concern for obtaining 
objects of the highest quality, and, at the same time, tempered by varying 
financial restrictions. Admittedly, there have been occasions when an unexpectedly 
large number of objects were acquired in a single fiscal year. One instance was 
the Agnes E. Meyer bequest of 1968. It is conceivable that from time to time 
comparable increases in our annual acquisitions might occur in the future. 
However, at the present time, there is no compelling reason to believe the 
Gallery's future growth will vary significantly from that indicated in the 
statistical projection." 



19500. _ 


18500. .. 

18000. ^ 

Z 17500 

CE 17000 


16000. .. 



1920. 1930. 1940. 1950. I960. 197Q. 1980- 1990 2000. 2010- 2020 




Actual Collection Sizes 
1973 6,221 

1976 6,416 

Curatorial Assessment 

"The Museum is still far too young to have developed any pattern from which 
the future growth of its collection might be projected. Beyond this, the fact 
that it has been treated statistically as a single 'collection' introduces the 
same problem of meaningless numbers that has been encountered as to mixed 
collections elsewhere during this study, i.e., that one-hundred drawings stored 
in a single envelope are treated as one-hundred times as many items as a twenty- 
ton sculpture purchased at a considerably higher price. Finally, the imponderables 
involved in collecting contemporary art are such that no projection could be 
sound unless we knew with more certainty both the media and scale in which 
visual artists might be working in 1995 or 2004. 

"Notwithstanding this, the statistical projection appears too low. The 
three-interval base from which this projection was made includes one year when 
the Museum had not yet opened, one year during which it was open for only part 
of the time and one year of full operation. The increase in the first interval 
was twenty-one works of art, in the second interval it was twenty-eight works of 
art and in the third — when the Museum was in full operation — it was one 
hundred forty-six works of art. (This third interval was, in fact, fifteen 
months because of the transition to the new October 1 fiscal year.) Incomplete 
figures for 1977 suggests that the total number of items to be accessioned in 
the fourth interval will be in the range of seventy to eighty. 

"Insummary, our immediate recent experience and the questionable base from 
which the graph was prepared would seem to indicate that the theoretical projection 
is too low. As a pure speculation, a compound rate of an increase of one and 
one-half percent annual growth might have the right feel." 







a. 7500 


65 0. 




2015 = 11,400 

2015 = 9,300 


1970. 1975. 1980. 1985. 1990- 1995. 2000. 2005- 2010- 2015. 2020 




Actual Collection Sizes 
1948 4,529 

1976 23,661 

Curatorial Assessment 

"During the ten years from 1957 through 1966, the NASM collection grew at 
an average rate of 382 items per year, while during the period 1967 through 
1976, the average rate was 1381 items per year. This increase was due to several 
factors, the most important being the growth of the U.S. space program culminating 
in the moon landing in 1969. Also, in 1966, the National Air Museum became the 
National Air and Space Museum, and the collecting of artifacts from the NASA 
space program began. In 1969 NASM and NASA concluded an agreement whereby all 
spaceflight artifacts were offered to NASM when no longer required by NASA. 

"The corrected growth curve reflects a gradual decrease to an annual rate 
of about 1000. Several factors lead to this predicted rate: 

1. The larger NASM professional staff allows more careful 
study and selection of items from offered collections and 
eliminated the need to take entire collections to avoid missing 
a few key items. 

2. The activity in the U.S. space program has decreased 
.considerably and is not expected to increase markedly in the 

near future. 

3. The large size of modern aircraft makes it impractical to 
add them to the collection, and their very high cost makes 
them less likely to be offered. 

4. There are relatively few older historically or technologically 
significant aircraft in existence that NASM could reasonably hope 
to acquire. 

5. The proliferation of air museums in the U.S. has increased 
the competition for aviation artifacts. 

"In addition to the above, NASM has just begun a complete computerized 
inventory of its collection. This will allow the identification and subsequent 
disposal of duplicate and other surplus items now in the collection. Many of 
these surplus items will be donated to other air museums. 

"It is possible that by very careful selection and control of incoming items 
and by diligent screening of items already in the collection that the accession 
rate can be reduced below the predicted rate of 1000 items per year." 










^ 100000 




80000. .. 

^ 60000... 

40000. .. 

20000. .. 





970. 1980 


2000. 2010. 2020 



Actual Collection Sizes 
1965 7,786 

1976 20,578 

Curatorial Assessment 

"It can be estimated that the collections of the National Collection of 
Fine Arts will grow by approximately 1000 works a year for the next ten years. 
After that it can be anticipated that the rate should increase to about 1500 
for the next 15 years. A projected increase after that should be about 2000 
works a year. 

"This increase can be anticipated from several factors. The present growth 
rate should continue for about a decade, but the NCFA continues to grow in 
significance and its role in the art of the United States carries tremendous 
responsibility: the inevitable diminishing of major private collections means 
an increased responsibility for art museums, and in particular NCFA as a 
national museum, to preserve our art. In-depth selections from selected major 
artists' estates are being added to the collection at an increasing rate, 
which will account for additional annual growth. The collection must be 
augmented in general to fairly represent all important phases of American art, 
both past and present, and as the history of American art is expanded, works 
by more artists will be added. 

"The ratio of about 70 percent of the works being on paper and of easily 
stored sizes should continue, but at the same time some paintings and sculpture 
are of increasingly large dimensions, and some contemporary pieces in 
untraditional media and expressions present difficult storage and management 
problems ." 





965. 1970. 1975. 1980- 198 

1990. 1995. 2000. 2005. 2010. 2015- 2020 


NMHT - Agriculture and Mining 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1960 10,075 

1976 17,670 

Curatorial Assessment 

"Relatively complete in drilling equipment, weak in Western U.S. for mining 
equipment. Need to collect 20th Century farming equipment." It is estimated 
that by 1986 the collection will have increased by 20% of its 1976 size, and by 
1996 by 35% of its 1976 size. 

Editorial Note 

NMHT curators are reluctant to predict growth for periods exceeding twenty 
years. The curatorial curve has been extended as a straight line to the year 
2015 to facilitate comparison with the statistically derived curve. 

The sharp jump in 1975 was caused by the acquisition of 400,000 advertising 
items which have since been reclassified as documentary materials. The inclusion 
of this large number caused a corresponding rise in the calculated curve. 



1200000. ^ 


1000000 . .. 



700000 . .. 

^ 600000. 


400000. -. 



100000. .. 




NMHT - Ceramics and Glass 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1958 13,127 

1976 22,237 

Curatorial Assessment 

"Previous estimate was for a substantial increase, especially in glass, 
which would amount to more than tripling the collection in 20 years. The 
recent loss of two curators in the division, and re-assignment of the 
collections into Cultural History make the future uncertain." No curatorial 
projection is included for this graph. 





60000. .. 



45000. .. 

^ 40000 

35000. .. 



20000. .. 




^r. y^ ^r, /^ /o /^ ^r 

H 1 

-^- p^ e. ^x^ e~ 

^& ^o ^& ^o ^& "^o ^& 'h ^-s ^o ^& ^o ^& ^o 



NMHT - Electricity and Nuclear Energy 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1958 3,342 

1976 12,641 

Curatorial Assessment 

"Electrical collections in communications, especially radio and telegraphy, 
are quite good. There are still gaps in these and other areas in the 20th 
century. Batteries are especially weak. There are some large collections of 
vacuum tubes which we would get if we could, to add to a modest present 
collection. Nuclear Energy (now Modem Physics) is a relatively new area of 
concentration, and although it has good collections of particle accellerators 
and bubble chambers, there is likely to be considerable activity for some years 
to come in areas like cryogenics, superconductivity, x-ray spectrometry, nuclear 
fusion, and the development of laboratory electronics." It is estimated that 
by 1986 the collection will increase by 50% of its 1976 size, and by 1996 by 75% 
of its 1976 size. 

Editorial Note 

NiyiHT curators are reluctant to predict growth for periods exceeding twenty 
years. The curatorial curve has been extended as a straight line to the year 
2015 to facilitate comparison with the statistically derived curve. 




300000 . .. 

5 250000. i 

^ 200000.1 

tx 150000. .. 

100000. .. 

50000 . .. 




NMHT - Manufacturing 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1958 28,771 

1976 37,653 

Curatorial Assessment 

"This collection has been disbanded into separate divisions, which makes 
projections difficult. One area that will be pursued vigorously is food 
processing: canning, processing of agricultural products (snuff, cigars, 
cigarettes, etc.). Dairying and milling areas are more complete." 

Editorial Note 

The Warshaw collection of business Americana was reported in 1972 as an 
addition of one million items to this collection. The sudden increase at the 
time from 37,334 to 1,037,334 affected the statistical calculations and resulted 
in the abnormal graph shown on the opposite page. Because the computer-generated 
scale runs from 200 million to 3 billion, the increase of a million items 
represents l/200th of the half-inch interval at the bottom of the graph and is 
therefore not detectable by the human eye. 

The Warshaw collection recently was reclassified as a documentary collection 
to be relocated elsewhere. (Cf. Agriculture and Mining). Although the Manufacturing 
collection is in a state of flux at the present time, conferences with the 
curatorial staff suggest that the 37,653 items in the current aggregate, though 
redistributed, will reach a total of approximately 60,000 by 2015. 







2200000000. I 


1799999999. i 











Statistical projection 
unsuccessful. No curatorial 
projection possible at this 
time. See explanations on 
facing page. 



NMHT - Medical Sciences 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1926 13,100 

1976 42,867 

Curatorial Assessment 

"Pharmacy and drug collections are large and will probably have more time 
spent on them for description than growth. Hospital equipment, health, safety 
are areas that have not received attention in the past and probably will in the 
near future." It is estimated that by 1986 the collection will increase by 30% 
of its 1976 size, and by 1996 by 60% of its 1976 size. 

Editorial Note 

NMHT curators are reluctant to predict growth for periods exceeding twenty 
years. The curatorial curve has been extended as a straight line to the year 
2015 to facilitate comparison with the statistically derived curve. 









40000. .. 





Statistical / 
projection / 


1920. 1930. 1940. 1950- I960. 1970. 1980. 1990. 2000 . 2010. 2020 



NMHT - Military History 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1933 27,488 

1976 59,126 

Curatorial Assessment 

"Weapons of the 'black powder' era are fairly complete, also uniforms. 
More attention now being paid to accessories (loading tools, bullet moulds, etc.) 
militia dress and equipment." It is estimated that by 1986 the collection will 
have increased by 30% of its 1976 size, and by 1996 by 50% of its 1976 size. 

Editorial Note 

NMHT curators are reluctant to predict growth for periods exceeding twenty 
years. The curatorial curve has been extended as a straight line to the year 
2015 to facilitate comparison with the statistically derived curve. 







a 70000. 


z 60000. i 


50000 . 








H h 

1930. 1940. 1950. 195( 

1970. 1980. 1990. 2000. 2010. 202( 


NMHT - Naval History 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1933 2,510 

1976 20,322 

Curatorial Assessment 

"Good collection of WWII uniforms that will need modest increases; earlier 
(and later) material weaker. Gaps in enlisted-men's uniforms, auxiliary 
equipment (shoes, knapsacks, etc.)- Large gaps exist in auxiliary shipboard 
equipment." It is estimated that by 1986 the collection will have increased by 
50% of its 1976 size, and by 1996 by 100% of its 1976 size. 

Editorial Note 

NMHT curators are reluctant to predict growth for periods exceeding twenty 
years. The curatorial curve has been extended as a straight line to the year 
2015 to facilitate comparison with the statistically derived curve. 





140000. .. 


80000 . .. 

60000 . -. 





NMHT - Numismatics 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1933 45,802 

1976 531,093 

Curatorial Assessment 

"This is a large collection that tries to be definitive. New material is 
collected as it is produced and gaps in older areas are filled as items become 
available." It is estimated that by 1986 the collection will have increased by 
50% of its 1976 size, and by 1996 by 100% of its 1976 size. 

Editorial Note 

NMHT curators are reluctant to predict growth for periods exceeding twenty 
years. The curatorial curve has been extended as a straight line to the year 
2015 to facilitate comparison with the statistically derived curve. 




3500000. .. 



Q 2500000 



1500000. i 

1000000. .. 



NMHT - Philately 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1933 391,131 

1976 12,269,854 

Curatorial Assessment 

"Argument the same as for numismatics on the philately side. Associated 
equipment (sorting boxes, machinery) is not extensive, and expect gaps to be 
filled as items are made available." It is estimated that by 1986 the collection 
will have increased by 40% of its 1976 size, and by 1996 by 80% of its 1976 
size. - 

Editorial Note 

NMHT curators are reluctant to predict growth for periods exceeding twenty 
years. The curatorial curve has been extended as a straight line to the year 
2015 to facilitate comparison with the statistically derived curve. 







£ 800000000. 



CE 600000000 



200000000. .. 

1.4 billion 



NMHT - Physical Sciences 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1958 2,111 

1976 6,031 

Curatorial Assessment 

"Major sources of material in the past have been universitied (as they 
constructed new science buildings), and these have pretty well dried up. Major 
gaps are in auxiliary astronomical apparatus, various forms of chemical apparatus. 
We have the beginnings of a good plastics collection which needs further filling 
out." It is estimated that by 1986 the collection will have increased by 65% 
of its 1976 size, and by 1996 by 110% of its 1976 size. 

Editorial Note 

NMHT curators are reluctant to predict growth for periods exceeding twenty 
years. The curatorial curve has been extended as a straight line to the year 
2015 to facilitate comparison with the statistically derived curve. 




uuuuu • _ 







. /. . 







> 30000.. 


projection / 




£ 25000.. 






_j 20000.. 


1 — 

^ 15000. - 

: ■■ ■ / 







^^.^^^^^ Curatorial 
^^^,^--*===^^-^^^ projection 


' 1 1 1 1 \ 1 \ \ 

1 \ 

H 1 i 

<9^ <?^ ^^^ <9y ^^^ ^^. <Po <P9 -"^0 i?^ ^O^ %, % % 
^^_ ^O^ ^& \ \ '^O^ '^& \ ^^_ ^(?_ ^& 'O^ <.-_ "^ 



NMHT - Political History 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1958 37,533 

1976 60,289 

Curatorial Assessment 

"Though this is true elsewhere as well, special emphasis was made here on 
the tentativeness of predictions. Much has been collected in recent years of 
campaign material; some early gaps need to be filled, but main emphasis is likely 
to be on newly-generated material. Collections of minority-rights material are 
lacking and will receive attention. Other areas (first-ladies' gowns, etc) will 
be filled in as appropriate and possible." It is estimated that by 1986 the 
collection will have increased by 20% of its 1976 size, and by 1996 by 40% of 
its 1976 size. 

Editorial Note 

NMHT curators are reluctant to predict growth for periods exceeding twenty 
years. The curatorial curve has been extended as a straight line to the year 
2015 to facilitate comparison with the statistically derived curve. 





Ei 60000. .. 

£ 55000. i 


(X 50000. i 

■5000. .. 





H \ \ h 

2015 = 107,300 



H \ \ h 

<P<. <9o ^O^ "'O-. <9. <9q <Po ^'^o ^^o "^^^/^ ^O^ ^<^/ ^<^/ "^^^ 
^ '^O ^^ ^O ^& ^<? ^S ^O ^o- ^^ ^s^ -^ <^ ^^ 


NMHT - Textiles 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1958 32,860 

1976 40,101 

Curatorial Assessment 

"Collections of quilts, lace, sewing machines are reasonably complete and 
will be filled in with care. Areas that have not received detailed attention 
and where there are gaps include 20th-century fabrics (including synthetics) , 
sewing tools, and certain large knitting and weaving machines (both 19th and 
20th centuries)." It is estimated that by 1986 the collection will have 
increased by 25% of its 1976 size, and by 1996 by 50% of its 1976 size. 

Editorial Note 

NMHT Curators are reluctant to predict growth for periods exceeding twenty 
years. The curatorial curve has been extended as a straight line to the year 
2015 to facilitate comparison with the statistically derived curve. 





55000. .. 

2015 = 79,200 

. 50000 


CE 45000 

40000. .. 

35000. .. 





/. /. /. /^ /^ /. /. /. 
^O ^& ■<? ^& 

'o ^& ^o ^s- ^o '^ 



NMHT - Transportation 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1958 22,227 

1976 63,639 

Curatorial Assessment 

"Areas without appreciable gaps include items like rail samples, spark plugs. 
Otherwise there is a general need for more accessory items. Early ship model 
collection is very good, but needs to be extended into age of steam, and especially 
into recent period of revolutionary change in construction methods. Collection 
of steam locomotives, among the large items, is good; we need passenger cars, 
freight cars, diesel locomotives. Automobile collection could be greatly 
improved if space were available. Gaps in shipping include electronic navigational 
items, and larger engine-related equipment that is available. Full-sized boats — 
even small ones — will probably not form a collection because of storage 
problems and because they are being preserved elsewhere." Estimate depends on 
availability of space, ' If substantial space were available the increases might 
be 100% of the 1976 size by 1986 and 200% of the 1976 size by 1996. Otherwise 
expect the collection to increase by 30% of collection size by 1986 and 60% of 
1976 collection size by 1996. 

Editorial Note 

NMHT curators are reluctant to predict growth for periods exceeding twenty 
years. The curatorial curve has been extended as a straight line to the year 
2015 to facilitate comparison with the statistically derived curve. 









^ 600000 

500000. .. 







NMHT - Collections Not Plotted Mathematically 

Five NMHT collections were omitted from the mathematical analysis project 
because they were too new, in the their current configurations, to provide 
adequate historical bases for suitable statistical treatment. However, they 
have been subjected to curatorial evaluation and forecasting. Curatorial 
assessments and growth estimates for these collections are provided below. 

Cultural History . "Early lighting, food preparation, ceramics, tinware are 
generally in good shape. But here as elsewhere there is a need to obtain non- 
East Coast material and representative examples of higher-class items. Sports, 
entertainment, labor history, which have had little special attention in the past 
will receive it now. This is an area undergoing substantial change and it is 
difficult to predict what may happen." It is estimated that the collection may 
increase by 300% or more of its 1976 size by 1986, and by 600% or more of its 
1976 size by 1996. (Collection size in 1976: 47,127) 

Graphic Arts . "Press collection reasonably complete. Gaps in type-setting and 
foundry equipment, type samples. Estimate collecting at same rate as in 
immediate past." It is estimated that by 1986 the collection will have increased 
by 40% of its 1976 size, and by 1996 by 80% of its 1976 size. (Collection size 
in 1976: 1,809) 

Mathematics . "Special emphasis (during the next ten to twenty years) on computers 
of the post-1930 period." It is estimated that by 1986 the collection will have 
increased by 80% of its 1976 size, and by 1996 by 130% of its 1976 size. 
(Collection size in 1976: 61) 

Mechanical and Civil Engineering . "Most collections are reasonably representative 
and will grow slowly. New emphasis on machine tools should produce a closing 
of gaps there; likewise for hand tools. New emphasis on automata should produce 
modest increases in numbers — including items like pinball machines, soft drink 
machines, etc." It is estimated that by 1986 the collection will have increased 
by 50% of its 1976 size, and by 1996 by 100% of its 1976 size. (Collection size 
in 1976: 30,164) 

Photographic History . "Cameras are fairly representational except for modern 
period. Important collections of photographs are continually being turned down 
because of lack of space; would like to collect them is space were available." 
It is estimated that by 1986 the collection will have increased by 50% of its 
1976 size, and by 1996 by 90% of its 1976 size. (Collection size in 1976: 


NMNH - Archeology 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1931 465,242 

1976 1,175,904 

Curatorial Assessment 

"I predict that the growth shown in the graph will remain approximately 
as shown in the curve constructed by you. We will not be adding to the staff in 
that department; but, if the present staff has established the growth pattern 
that you see between 1960 and 1973, the little spurt in 1974 is the result of 
only the addition of a particular collection and is not meaningful over the long 
run. Although it's becoming more and more difficult to get materials from 
foreign countries, we are doing a lot of archeological collecting in this 
country and in South America. I think we will continue to add materials at 
about the same rate." 



2200000. ^ 




> 1400000. 

^ 1200000 

1000000. .. 

800000. -. 





1930. 1940. 1950. I960. 19^0- 1980- 1990- 2000 


2GIC. 2Q2( 


NMNH - Birds 

Actual Collection Sizes 

1926 327,084 

1976 559,262 

Curatorial Assessment 

"There is no doubt in my mind that the rate of addition to the collections 
of birds is going to decrease in time. Our collections now include most of the 
birds that are extant and it is very unlikely that more than a handful of new 
species will be found. Also, it is becoming more and more difficult to obtain 
materials from foreign countries." 









650000 . 









1920. 1930. 1940. 1950. I960. 1970. 1980. 1990 


2000. 2Q1C. 2020 


NMNH - Botany 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1926 1,255,450 

1976 3,689,787 

Curatorial Assessment 

"The Botany collections should grow at the same rate as in the past few 
years. We do not anticipate any increase in this staff. There will be some 
decrease, in the long run, in addition, because of the difficulty in getting 
materials out of foreign countries, and because our collection is becoming 
more adequate with time." 














1920. 1930. 1940. 1950. 196Q. 1970. 1980. 1990- 2000- 2010- 2020 



NMNH - Crustacea 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1966 1,477,157 

1976 3,284,883 

Curatorial Assessment 

"There is no question in my mind that there will be only a slight increase 
in this collection in the next 20-30 years. The big biological oceanographic 
surveys are over now and most of the common species have been collected." 







> 60000000... 

^ 50000000. 



^ 30000000 




projection / 



NMNH - Echinoderms 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1966 80,244 

1976 218,284 

Curatorial Assessment 

"I have just written a research paper on this subject and it is my opinion that 
most of the species of living echinoderms have now been collected and are 
represented in museums. It is very unlikely that we'll have any increase 
(of any size) in this collection in the near future." 







> 6000000... 

Q- 5000000. 



_, 4000000. 

°= 3000000. 




1965. 1970. 1975. le-SO. 1985- 1990- 1995- 2000- 2005- 2010- 2015. 2020 



NMNH - Entomology 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1933 4,1A1,686 

1976 21,297,300 

Curatorial Assessment 

"We anticipate no increase in the size of our staff in the Department of Entomology. 
Most of our present workers already have collected extensively in their own fields 
or disciplines and I see no reason to believe that the rate of growth will increase 
over what it has been in the past." 





3 90000000.4. 



. 80000000. 


£ 70000000. 


a: 50000000. 


3 50000000. 











1930. 1940. 1950 


1970. 1980 

1990. 2000. 2010. 2020 


NMNH - Ethnology 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1926 158,535 

1976 205,010 

Curatorial Assessment 

"I predict that we will continue to grow at a rate somewhat equal to what we have 
been averaging in the last 20 years. We will be adding no more staff and are 
faced with the problem of getting material from foreign countries. However, I 
think we will probably be successful in adding to the collections at about the 

present rate. " 






200000. .. 

^ 195000 


^ 185000. 










1920. 1930. 1940. 1950. I960. 1970- 1980- 1990. 2000- 2010- 2020 



NMNH - Fishes 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1926 691,439 

1976 2,342,891 

Curatorial Assessment 

"I am certain that our collections will not increase any more than it has 
in the last few years. We are adding no more scientists in this field and it 
is becoming increasingly difficult to find new material in our field research.' 






a. 5000Q00... 

Q_ 4000000. 

cr 3000000. i 






1920. 1930.' 1940. 1950. I960. 1970. 1980. 1990. 20QQ. 2010- 2020 



NMNH - Mammals 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1926 81,997 

1976 482,473 

Curatorial Assessment 

"I thing the decreasing rate that you see in the curve between 1960 and 1975 
will continue. Our collection is large and includes most of the common forms. 
It will become more and more difficult to find material to add to the collections, 



iiooooo. .. 



^ 800000. 


^ 600000 





100000. .. 





1920. 1930. 1940. 1950- 1S60. 197Q. 1980. 1990- 2000- 2010- 202G 



NMNH - Meteorites 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1964 5,000 

1976 14,307 

Curatorial Assessment 

"There is no doubt that there will be a very slight increase in this 
collection. Over the last hundred years, almost all the large meteorites that 
have fallen over the last few million years have been collected. The main 
number to be collected henceforth will be ones which fall during the next 20 
years. Needless to say, this will be a very small number; therefore, we can 
expect very little growth in this collection." 







> 300000. 

^ 250000.1 







^^ ^o ^^ ^<? ^^ ^^ 

o '& ^o 



NMNH - Mineralogy- 
Actual Collection Sizes 
1966 121,648 

1976 202,690 

Curatorial Assessment 

"There will be some increase in this colle-tion but not very much. We now 
have in our collections specimens of almost every species of minerals and there 
will be very few new ones found in the future." 




^ 900000. 

S 800000. 

Q 700000 




^ 5G0GG0 







projection . 



y^ ^^00^^^ Curatorial 

! 1 \ 1 \ \ \ 1 



— 1 i 

1965. 1970. 1975. 1980. 1985- 1990- 1995. 2000- 2005. 2010- 2015- 2020 



NMNH - Mollusks 

Actual Collection Sizes 
1966 9,941,443 

1976 10,570,172 

Curatorial Assessment 

"I predicted such a large increase in the mollusks collection because we 
have just hired Dr. Arthur Clarke to work on fresh water mollusks. He is an 
exceedingly energetic person in a field in which there has not been an energetic 
person for many years. He is starting a monograph on the freshwater mollusks 
of the United States and I am sure this will result in many collections added 
to this Museum." 



Statements by the Bureaus About Their Collections 


In 1859 Peter Cooper, one of the extraordinary Americans of the nineteenth 
century, opened an institution consisting of a free school, a library, and a 
lecture forum, Tliis educational facility, called the Cooper Union for the 
Advancement of Science and Art, was available to the respectable needy without 
regard for race, color or sex. It provided education for thousands of men and 
women, many of them immigrants, who might otherwise have been bound to employm.ent 
with little future. 

The entire establishment of Cooper Union — administration, programs, and 
building — was financed by Peter Cooper. Among the activities he had wished to 
include, but could not afford at the time, was a museum of "art, science and 
nature." Although the resources of the young institution did not permit the 
immediate formation of collections, the original plans provided space for a 

Late in the century Cooper's granddaughters, Sarah, Eleanor and Amy Hewitt, 
decided to establish the museum envisioned by their grandfather. Their sense of 
the practical, as well as their own tastes and interests, led them to propose not 
a general museum — New York by this time had already acquired both an art museum 
and a natural history museum — but a museum that could serve the designer, the 
artisan, and the student. In their travels abroad the Hewitt sisters had seen 
and admired the collections of the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria & 
Albert MuseumO in London and the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, and they 
strongly believed that a similar collection would be useful in raising the 

A^l . 

standards of design in this country. In May of 1897 the Hewitt sisters opened 
the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration. 

Within a few years several important private collections were acquired by 
gift or purchase. The gift by J. Pierpont Morgan of three European textile 
collections placed the Cooper Union in the rank of the South Kensington and 
Berlin museums in the field of textiles. The Museum also acquired the Italian 
architectural and decorative drawings belonging to the Cavaliere Giovanni 
Piancastelli, Curator of the Borghese Collection. Several years later, the 
Museum purchased the remarkable collection of Leon Decloux, an architect and 
interior designer of Sevres, which included samples of eighteenth-century French 
decoration in drawings, woodwork, hardware, prints and books. Later acquisitions 
continued to maintain this high level of quality and today the Museum is considered 
one of the foremost repositories of decorative arts and design in the world. The 
collections encompass objects from all parts of the world and from every historical 
period over a span of 3000 years — drawings, prints, wallpapers, textiles, 
ceramics , 'glass , furniture, woodwork, metalwork, jewelry — and every conceivable 
category including architecture, urban and industrial design, advertising, fashion, 
interior, home furnishings. The Museum's library and picture archive have become 
one of the outstanding design reference centers in America. 

Over the years the Trustees of the Cooper Union found it increasingly difficult 
to operate their many free facilities and in 1963 reluctantly decided to dis- 
continue the Museum. This action was followed with predictable public outcry, 
and a committee was formed to save the Cooper Union Museum. Through the inter- 
cession of the American Association of Museums, the collections were entrusted to 

A- 2 

the Smithsonian Institution. In 1968, after the transfer was accomplished, the 
Museum's name was changed to the Cooper-Hev/itt Museum of Decorative Arts and 
Design, Smithsonian Institution. 

In 1972 the Carnegie Corporation deeded the Carnegie property to the 
Smithsonian as a new home for the Museum. The site, consisting of the Andrew 
Carnegie Mansion and an adjoining toT;<mhouse and gardens, stretches the length of 
an entire block on Fifth Avenue between 90th and 91st Streets. The buildings 
lend themselves admirably to showing everyday objects in human scale and in 
interesting relationships of old and new. Certain parts of the mansion have been 
restored to their original state and other parts renovated to the modern require- 
ments of the Museum. The collections will continue to reflect this apposition of 
old and new, making possible the study of the processes as well as the products 
of design. 

The objects are therefore divided in term.s of medium and technique rather 
than culture, period or historical chronology: 

Drawings and prints . Restricted primarily to architecture, design and 
ornament, the holdings of drawings are numerically the largest in the 
United States. Numbering more than 30,000 examples, the collection is 
over three times as large as its nearest American rival and ranks with 
the world's three great bodies of similar material: the Victoria & 
Albert in London, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, and the 
Kunstbibliothek in Berlin. 

The eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Italian designs for architecture 
and decoration are unsurpassed anywhere. Several thousand French 
designs for textiles and decoration and the holdings of French ornament 
prints have no rival outside France. Only the Library of Congress has 
a larger group of American wood engravings. North European woodcuts 
and engravings by Schongauer, Durer, Van Leyden, and Rembrandt, among 
others, are plentifully represented by excellent impressions. A group 
of over 200 prints by the Tiepolo family, many in early, rare impressions, 
is important. 

■ . A-3 . 

The categories of design are extremely varied and include, among others, 
drawings for theater, scenery, and costumes; wall and ceiling decoration; 
architectural ornament, furniture, festival decoration, lighting 
fixtures, metalwork, jewelry, garden plans, and ecclesiastical 

The collection also has a sizable section of nineteenth-century American 
drawings, including the largest repository of drawings by Winslow Homer 
in the world, more than 2000 sketches by Frederic Edwin Church, and 
drawings in quantity by Daniel Huntington, Elihu Vedder, and Thomas 
Mo ran. 

Earthenware, Stoneware, Porcelain, and Glass . Conceived to illustrate 
the evolution of ceramics from antiquity to the present, the collection 
provides a survey of European porcelain and its interrelation with 
Oriental stoneware and porcelain prototypes. Remarkably fine pieces of 
porcelain are represented, especially in the proportionately large 
group of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century European figurines, many of 
them of the Four Parts of the World. The collections also contain 
examples of Classical, Oriental, and European earthenware, such as 
Italian majolica, German stoneware, French, German and Italian faience, 
and wall and stove tiles from several places of origin. 

Although comparatively small, the glass collection has the potential of 
developing into one of major significance because of its scope and fine 
quality. The range includes ancient glass, a few medieval Middle 
Eastern examples, and European objects from the seventeenth century to 
the present. Among these are a Nevers figurine, Irish candelabra and a 
chandelier, German and Bohemian engraved goblets and covered cups, 
cameo-cut French and English pieces, and three Italian glass bird 
cages. The twentieth century is well represented by many great European 
and American names in art glass reproduction. Stained and leaded glass 
panels from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries include examples 
from Rheims Cathedral. 

Fabrics: Woven, Printed, Embroidered . This large collection, which 
embraces a wide range of techniques, cultures, and periods, enjoys 
international recognition. An outstanding segment is a group of 
Egyptian, Islamic, Mediterranean, and Near Eastern textiles from the 
third through the fifteenth centuries. Another, of woven silks from 
Christian Europe of the fourteenth through the eighteenth centuries, is 
especially important. The collection of dyed fabrics is strong, 
comprising techniques from a wide variety of countries and periods, 
including Indian painted and dyed cottons that influenced the development of 
European fabric printing industries. Embroidery is well represented, 
particularly by a group of men's waistcoats in the high style of the 
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and a sizable collection of 
samplers. The collection of lace deserves attention for its extra- 
ordinary quality and design. 

The collection is amplified by a large number of lace pattern books, 
dyers' and printers' notebooks, and merchants' sample books from the 
sixteenth century to the present, and by working drawings and proof 

A- 4 

prints for a number of textiles in the collection. These components 
allow a study of textiles through an examination of pattern, color, 
structure, technique and historic and social values. 

Furniture, Architectural Woodwork, and Hardware . The primary eighteenth- 
century French collection of wall panels, trophees , f , doors, 
boxes, and architectural elem.ents has no rival outside Paris. Indeed, 
together with related drawings, prints and hardware, it represents a 
body of visual information necessary to a study of eighteenth-century 
French design. 

The furniture collection highlights structural and stylistic developments 
from the seventeenth century to the present. With few exceptions 
(principally Oriental objects for export) the pieces are Western European 
and American, and were acquired for their instrinsic aesthetic worth as 
well as for their craftsmanship and design. Not all the furniture is 
of wood; indeed, two examples worth singling out are a glass desk by 
Djo Bourgeois shown in the Paris Exposition of 1929 and a chromium 
steel and canvas chair by Marcel Breuer from the first production in 

Goldsmiths' Work and Jewelry . A diverse selection of silver- and 
goldsmiths' work includes seventeenth- and eighteenth-century German 
presentation pieces, rococo examples from France, and a number of 
English works of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. A 
collection of eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century snuff, patch, 
and comfit boxes contains an important early eighteenth-century French 
gold box with diamonds and rubies. Other silver, some of it peasant 
work, comes from China, Turkey, Russia, Scandinavia, Central Europe, 
Mexico, and the United States. The twentieth century is represented by 
several outstanding pieces from Austria, England, and America. 

Jewelry has been acquired with a concern for design and variety rather 
than intrinsic worth. A wide range of materials is represented besides 
precious metals and stones, and there are examples from all over the 
world, from ancient times to the present. The strength of the collection 
is in European and American nineteenth century jewels, with articles by 
two of the most important goldsmiths of the century, the Castellani of 
Rome and Carlo Giuliano of London. 

Library . Developed as a complementary expansion of the Museum's 
collections, the library provides the most comprehensive and readily 
accessible reference collection of design and decorative arts in New 
York. It also contains the most complete assemblage of books on the 
textile arts in America. Many of the reference books are rare, including 
a number of architecture books of the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries, early natural history books x<rith hand-colored plates, books 
of festival decorations, catalogues of world's fairs, beginning with 
the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851, and a collection of 
auction sales catalogues spanning more than a hundred years. 

An encyclopedic picture collection of well over a million and a half 
classified items, the George A Kubler collection of line cuts from 

. . A-5 

nineteenth- century periodicals, and specialized archives on color, 
pattern, materials, symbols, advertising, and other categories extend 
the usefulness of the library by providing visual material in quantity. 

Metalwork — Minor Metals . Encompassed in this grouping are a wide 
range of metals: iron, steel, copper, brass, bronze, and pewter. The 
largest collection is of Japanese sword guards, which demonstrate the 
fine metal craftsmanship of the Far East. There is an extensive group 
of European gilt bronze furniture mounts from the eighteenth century 
through the Empire, as well as English and American hardware. Several 
hundred examples of iron locks, keys, and other hardware of earlier 
periods make the collection overall an important documentary resource. 

A small selection of wrought-iron objects contains an eighteenth- 
century balcony and two lantern brackets from Germany, and several 
overdoors and window grilles from France. 

Miscellanea . Among the Museum's holdings are sand, tinsel, and feather 
pictures, bird cages, pressed flowers, straw-work boxes, valentines, 
candy Christmas tree ornaments, and examples of packaging and paper 
folding. These objects offer a human, informal way of viewing the 
past. In addition, the Museum now collects articles in synthetic 

A collection of theater designs and pre-cinema toys includes peep 
shows, sand toys, zoetropes, anamorphoses, and shadow puppets. 

Wallpaper and Bandboxes . Superseded in quantity only by the specialist 
wallpaper museum in Kassel, West Germany, this collection covers the 
entire development of wall coverings from Spanish and Dutch tooled 
leather hangings to present day wallpapers and polyplastic coverings. 
Many documented fragments from specific American houses are included, 
as well as a large group of bandboxes covered with wallpaper. This 
comprehensive collection, containing over 6,000 examples, offers a 
reflection of styles and fluctuations of taste. 

Each curatorial department has made an extensive study of its own collections 

and sub-collections as they relate to each other, to other collections in New 

York, to similar collections in the United States and to other Smithsonian 

collections. Judgments on additions to the collection are based on quality and 

suitability to the purpose of the Museum. Future collecting policy will be based 

on upgrading the quality of present collections, updating to include contemporary 

material, filling gaps, building on existing strengths and adding totally new 

areas that should be included in a national museum of design (advertising design, 

industrial design, architecture.) 



The Freer Collection was given in trust to the Smithsonian Institution by 
Charles L. Freer of Detroit in a forraal Deed of Gift executed on May 5, 1906. The 

Oriental collections include works of art from the Far East China, Japan, 

Korea and Tibet; and from the Near East Iran (Persia), Iraq, Syria, Asia 

Minor, Byzantium and Egypt. Some 8000 Oriental objects were included in the 
original Freer collection. In the half century since the Gallery opened, 
approximately 2000 more Oriental objects have been added by purchase, so that 
there are now 10,000. Briefly summarized, the Oriental collections are as follows 
China: Bronze, jade, carved bamboo, sculpture, painting, lacquer, 

pottery, calligraphy and porcelain. 
Japan: Sculpture, painting, lacquer, pottery and porcelain, calligraphy 

and metalwork. 
Korea: Painting, pottery and metalwork. 
India: Sculpture, manuscripts and painting. 

Iran (Persia): Manuscripts, metalwork, painting, pottery and sculpture. 
Egypt and Syria: Sculpture, manuscripts, glass and metalwork. 
Greek, Aramaic and Armenian Biblical manuscripts, early Christian painting, 
gold and crystal. The outstanding objects in this group are 
the fourth-fifth century manuscript of the Gospel according to 
the four Evangelists and a third century Greek (Egypt) papyrus 
manuscript of The Minor Prophets (in part) known respectively 
as Washington Manuscripts Nos . Ill and V. 

A- 7 

The arts of the West are represented by the large collection of 1,189 works 
by James McNeill Whistler, which includes a great number of oils, watercolors, 
pastels, drawings, etchings, lithographs, and the Peacock Room; paintings by 
George deForest Brush, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, Gari 
Melchers, Willard Leroy Metcalf, John Francis Murphy, Charles Adams Piatt, 
Albert Pinkham Ryder, John Singer Sargent, Joseph Lindon Smith, Abbott Handerson 
Thayer, Dwight William Tryon, and John Henry Twachtman; two sculptures by Augustus 
St. Gaudens, and a group of Pewabic pottery by Mary Chase Perry Stratton. By the 
terms of the Deed of Gift, the section of American arts is closed against further 
accessions . 

In addition to the main Freer Collection there is an ever-growing Study 
Collection, consisting of objects that are not used for exhibition, but are kept 
in study rooms for use as comparative material, for laboratory analysis, and for 
the use of visiting scholars and students, as well as by the staff. The Study 
Collection consists mostly of shards of pottery and porcelain (now amounting to 
some 5,000) from known find-sites and, even better, from known kiln sites. There 
are many hundreds of shards from kiln sites in Japan and in Thailand, and Chinese 
porcelain shards from known find-sites all around the Indian Ocean from Indonesia 
to the coast of Africa. In addition, there is what may be the most complete 
collection of shards from Japanese kiln sites assembled outside of Japan. The 
Study Collection also includes many fragments of ancient Chinese ceremonial 
bronzes, as well as a small selection of Japanese woodblock prints. 

It is anticipated that approximately 15 to 20 objects will be added to the 
Regular Collection annually, with additions also being made to the Study Collection. 

The terms of the Freer bequest stipulate that objects in the collection cannot 
be borrowed, nor can they leave the building. Consequently, it is especially 
important that adequate storage facilities be available. 

Supplementing the collection is the Library which now has approximately 
25,000 titles, about half of which are in Oriental languages, mainly Chinese and 
Japanese. In addition to the books and periodicals, the Library houses some 
30,000 slides and over 8,000 study photographs. It is planned to greatly expand 
this valuable tool for art historical research. 

Related to both the Library and the Study Collection is the Herzfeld Archive, 
This consists of all the field notebooks, all the negatives, and all the drawings 
and plans of the late Ernst Herzfeld, who spent his lifetime as an archeologist 
in the Near East, and who stands as one of the renowned scholars in that field. 
The material was given to the Smithsonian Institution in 1946 by Herzfeld's 
sister with the provision that it be housed in the Freer Gallery of Art; supple- 
mentary materials were added in 1951 and 1952. 

The basic goals of the Freer Gallery, as envisioned by the donor, Charles L. 
Freer, were clearly stated in the Deed of Gift. Mr. Freer stipulated that the 
Freer Gallery should be constructed and equipped with "special regard for the 
convenience of students and others desirous of an opportunity for uninterrupted 
study of the objects in the collection," and for "the encouragement of the study 
of civilizations of the Far East." Tliroughout more than fifty years the Gallery 
has been open to the public, successive directors of the Gallery have carried out 
the mandate of the founder. 

A- 9 

Research : Most unusual, perhaps unique among art museums, is the Gallery's 
relationship with the University of Michigan. Mr. Freer 's will included a 
bequest to that university with the stipulation that the income from the fund was 
to be used "to add to the knowledge and appreciation of Oriental art," and for 
other related purposes. The funds provide for Freer Fellowships awarded from 
time to time to graduate students at Michigan who want to spend an academic year 
at the Gallery writing their doctoral dissertations on material in the Freer 
collection. At the next level. Freer Scholarships provide for tuition and other 
expenses for graduate students on campus in Ann Arbor when they are deemed 
promising and demonstrate a need for financial help. Further, som.e of the fund 
is used to bring graduate students in Oriental art to Washington, D.C. at least 
once a year for visits to the Gallery where they can have firsthand contact with 
the objects. 

Recipients of the Louise Wallace Hackney Scholarships and the American 
Council of Learned Societies Fellowship for Research on Chinese Painting regu- 
larly come to the Gallery to pursue their research. 

Curatorial staff members also supervise the work of scholars who obtain 
Smithsonian Fellowships. 

Students and scholars from American and foreign universities and museums 
regularly visit the Gallery to study the collections and to discuss research 
topics with the curatorial staff. During the course of these discussions, 
students and scholars usually profit from studying the folder sheet files which 
update and record comments made by visiting scholars during the 50-year 

A- 10 

history of the Gallery. These folder files present a clear, concise form of all 
the information currently available about every object in the Freer collection. 
The files are constantly being updated by members of the curatorial staff when- 
ever new information becomes available. The folder files and the information 
they contain may be studied, on request, by scholars, students and the general 
public, thereby providing clear insights into the Freer collection. 

Lectures : The Gallery lecture series is currently in its 24th year. Each 
season, seven distinguished scholars speak at the Gallery on topics relating to 
areas represented in the Freer collection. Attendance is free. Mem.bers of the 
Freer curatorial staff lecture at the Gallery or at educational or governmental 
institutions in the Washington area as well as throughout the United States and 
abroad. These lectures range from general surveys of the art of a particular 
period to those that are extremely detailed and specialized reflecting the current 
research upon which the curator might be engaged. 

Examination of O bjects : Curatorial staff members examine objects for the 
public, by appointment, on Tuesday of each week during the months from September 
through May. The number of objects examined by Freer curators each year is 
approximately 8,100. 

In addition, curators reply to written requests for information about objects 
relating to those cultures encompassed by the collection. 

Gallery tours : Daily tours are given on Monday through Friday at 2:30 p.m. 

Groups may request special tours of the exhibition galleries or study areas at 

other times. 

. A-Il,. 

Publications : The Freer Gallery of Art Oriental Studies series began soon 
after the Gallery opened in 1923. These are major monographs devoted to various 
phases of the collection written both by staff members and by invited scholars. 
A second, somewhat smaller and more informal series, The Freer Gallery of Art 
Occasional Papers , was started in 1947. This series takes shorter studies of 
material in the collection or of related material outside the Freer Gallery 
written by staff members or by invited scholars involving objects in the Freer 
Gallery as part of the study. 

To mark the Gallery's 50th anniversary in 1973, the curatorial staff prepared 
three catalogues of special exhibitions of Freer objects. A series of color 
slides accompanies each volume. 

With publication of the first volume of a Gallery handbook in 1976, the 
Gallery also established a special publication fund. It is hoped that future 
publications can be supported, in part, from that fund. 

Sets of teaching slides illustrating examples of Chinese and Japanese 
ceramics in the collection have been prepared for use by museums and universities. 
Postcards, color reproductions, reproductions in the round and photographs and 
slides of Freer objects are available at the Sales Desk. The facilities of the 
photographic department at the Freer Gallery are such that requests for photographs 
slides or color transparencies may be filled with the least delay. 

Charles Lang Freer Medal : This medal, regarded as one of the most esteemed 
awards in the field of Near and Far Eastern art history, was first presented on 


February 25, 1956, in observance of the one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of 
Charles Lang Freer. In all, six scholars throughout the world have received the 
medal "for distinguished contribution to the knov?ledge and understanding of 
Oriental civilizations as reflected in their arts." 



That the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden was intended, from its incep- 
tion, to be strongly collection-oriented is evident from the 1966 Congressional 
hearings that led to its establishment. 

Prior to 1966, there was no national museum devoted chiefly to maintaining a 
collection of contemporary art. The Congress, as early as 1938, had expressed 
its desire to see such a museum brought into being. For nearly thirty years, 
this desire was frustrated: by the advent of World War II, by periodic fiscal 
stringency and by the seemingly insuperable task of assembling, at a single 
stroke, the broadly representative collection of contemporary painting and sculpture 
that such a museum would require as a foundation and that the nation had theretofore 
failed to assemble. 

When Joseph H. Hirshhorn offered his collection to the Smithsonian Institution, 

the Congress was presented with a singular opportunity to repair this failure. 

Testifying before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Public Buildings 

and Grounds on June 15, 1966, Secretary Ripley emphasized this point: 

Now we have this unparalleled opportunity. We have in effect been 
given a collection which has been assembled privately, as if we 
had been doing it all the time. Mr. HirshhTrn has been buying 
contemporary art since 1923. The great development and interest 
in contemporary art which was recognized by the Congress in 1938 
has been proceeding at a rapid pace ever since, with the result 
that it would be impossible for the Smithsonian or any agency 
of the Government to duplicate this collection for, perhaps, 
$50 million. 

We simply have been given something X'/hich someone else has been 
collecting as if we had been doing it ourselves, given the 
money. This is a fantastic advantage. 

A- 15 

The legislation that was subsequently enacted, establishing the Museum and 
authorizing the funds required for its construction, maintenance and operation, 
specified the purposes for which its facilities were to be employed. They were 
to be "...the permanent home of the collections of art of Joseph H. Hirshhom..." 
and were to " used for the storage, exhibition and study of works of art..."* 

To ensure that the collection to be so housed, exhibited and studied would 
not be a static one, the Congress also established a Board of Trustees for the 
Museum and vested in it sole authority " purchase or otherwise acquire 
(whether by gift, exchange or other means) works of art..." for the Museum. 

Since the Museum first opened to the public in 1974, the Trustees have — 
building on the base of the original gifts donated by Mr. Hirshhom and the 
Joseph H. Hirshhom Foundation — added some 236 works of art to its collection. 
These acquisitions have been made by (a) gift (including additional generous 
gifts from Mr. Hirshhom, as well as some forty other donors), (b) purchase 
(largely out of funds annually appropriated for this purpose by the Congress, but 
with certain trust funds as well) , and (c) exchange. Annual acquisitions have 
been as follows: 

1974 21 Works of Art 

1975 28 Works of Art 

1976 109 Works of Art** 

1977 78 Works of Art*** 

* Public Law 89-788, approved November 7, 1966 

** Included in the 1976 total is one gift of sixty small drawings by a single 
artist totaling, in bulk, the contents of a medium-sized manila envelope. 

*** To and including June 30. 


In making acquisitions, the Trustees have placed their primary emphasis on 
works of art created within the past ten years in order that the passage of time 
not dissipate the contemporary nature of the collection and so that the "fantastic 
advantage" to which the Secretary alluded in 1966 could be retained. 

As of July 1, 1977, the Museum's collection consisted of 6,494 works of art, 
classified in the following categories: 

Paintings 3,273 

Sculptures 1,781 

Drawings 996 

Collages 47 

Prints 293 

Mechanical reproductions 12 

Works of decorative art 89 

Photographs 3 

More than 90% of these are the work of nineteenth and twentieth century 
American and European artists. The balance (all part of the original Hirshhorn 
gift) is contained in several sub-collections of Pre-Columbian sculpture, Benin 
bronzes, Eskimo carvings and Egyptian classical antiquities. 

In its day-to-day use of the collection, the Museum's chief emphasis is on 
two of the activities referred to in its establishing legislation: exhibition 
and study. In practice, these are often interrelated. 

Thus, for example, on May 24, 1977, the Museum opened an exhibition that 
included virtually its entire holdings of the work of the American nineteenth 

A- 17 

century painter Thomas Eakins — a collection considered one of the most important - 
of the works of this artist anywhere in the world. The 240 page catalogue that 
accompanied this exhibition — widely hailed as a significant contribution to 
Eakins scholarship — was nearly three years in preparation. Under the supervision 
of the Museum's curatorial staff, substantial portions of the underlying research 
was undertaken by graduate students of American art history at the University of 

In the view of the Museum's staff, such interrelated uses produce multiple 
benefits: for the general public — which has an opportunity to see, in a coherent 
context, a large number of works of art never before exhibited together; for the 
scholarly community — which, through the Museum's publication program, has been 
able to assimilate the knowledge gathered in preparation for this exhibition to 
what is already known of this artist and his work; and for students — who are 
given the all too rare opportunity to do original art historical research working 
directly with source materials. 

Beyond such immediate use for exhibition and study within the Museum, the 
collection also serves as a resource for other institutions at both the national 
and international levels. In just the first six months of 1977, for example, 
collection items were loaned for special exhibitions to more than thirty other 
institutions: to museums in such cities as New York, Houston, Indianapolis, 
Chicago, Providence and Washington, and, in overseas loans, to museums in France, 
Switzerland, England, Japan and West Germany. Commencing in the Fall of 1977, 
the Museum will circulate a special exhibition of sculpture and drawings — 
selected entirely from its own collection — to a group of three South Carolina 


art museums. A 1978 exhibition drawn from the Museum's holdings of paintings by 
Louis Elshemius will be specifically designed to travel nationally during 1979 
under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service 

This commitment to a broadened use of the collection extends as well to the 
design of the storage facilities. In particular, the Museum's 19,500 square foot 
fourth floor painting storeroom has been specifically arranged as a study-storage 
area where interested students, critics and visiting scholars may have supervised 
access to those portions of the painting collection that are not currently on 
public display. Limited study access to the stored sculpture collection and the 
stored print and drawing collection is also permitted from time to time. 

Further, in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution's Office of Academic 
Studies, the Museum has arranged to provide temporary space for Smithsonian 
Fellows whose focus of interest embraces m.aterial in the collection. Within the 
past year, scholars researching the work of Philip Evergood and Arthur B. Carles — 
two twentieth century American painters in whose work the Museum is particularly 
rich — have been accommodated at the Museum. On August 18, 1977, the Museum 
opened to the public an exhibition of its Carles holdings, accompanied by a 
publication prepared by one of the Fellows and based largely on research conducted 
at the Museum. 

The collection also serves, of course, as the principal focus of ongoing 
staff research directed toward developing the Museum's archival records. While 
some of this research may serve as a basis for future exhibitions, its larger 


purpose is scholarly: to document as fully as possible the works of art in the 
collection and to share the resulting knowledge with other museums and with 
scholars and students throughout the world. 

Concurrent with all these uses is the employment of the collection for 
general exhibition purposes. At any given time, the larger part of the Museum's 
gallery and outdoor display areas — the Plaza and Sculpture Garden — are 
installed with selections from the permanent collection. Increasingly, these are 
shown in so-called "exhibition units" — in essence, mini-exhibits of a particular 
artist, period, theme or style — which permit the rotation of the works on view 
without violence to any larger installation plan. This constant public 
availability of the collection has permitted the nearly five million visitors who 
have visited the Museum since its opening in 1974 to see important examples of 
the art of the past century displayed under ideal museum conditions. For those 
who want no more than the immediate experience of confronting these works of art 
by themselves, the Museum provides a sympathetic environment. For those who do 
want more, the Museum amplifies these displays with docent-guided tours, printed 
leaflets, electronic self-guided tours, films and lectures. 




For many years, long before man first flew in 1783, flight formed an important 
part of our cultural heritage. Early people, in all parts of the world, in 
various religions and mythologies, attributed the capability of flight to their 
gods. This fascination with flight in all of its aspects — past, present, and 
future — continues to this day. 

The National Air and Space Museum (NASM) , in common with the other bureaus 
of the Smithsonian Institution, has as its primary mission the increase and 
diffusion of knowledge. In NASM's case, this knowledge consists of the history, 
technology, and, in some cases, the sciences of aeronautics and astronautics. 

The increase of knowledge section of NASM's mission is met by the collecting 
of artifacts and material relating to those artifacts; by the collecting of 
historical and biographical material related to all phases of flight; by historical 
research; and by participating in scientific research projects run by other 
agencies such as NASA. 

This collected knowledge is diffused throughout the country, and indeed 
throughout the world, in many forms. The most visible of these forms are the 
exhibits in the NASM building. Here an outstanding collection of aircraft and 
spacecraft is displayed with supporting material including modern and innovative 
audiovisual aids to present the story of air and space flight to the public. An 
auxiliary museum at Silver Hill, Maryland, allows display, in a simple format, of 


additional groups of air and space craft. A vigorous loan program provides 
aircraft and spacecraft to other museums in the U.S. and abroad. The results of 
research by the NASM staff are published in books, journals, and magazines. The 
research files are used to answer requests for information and by outside 
researchers for reference. NASM also has worked with the Smithsonian Institution 
Traveling Exhibition Service in the preparation of exhibits. NASM works closely 
with schools and other groups to provide pre-tour information, guided tours, and 
post-tour information. As part of this program, a series of educational film 
strips on air and space subjects is being prepared. 

The Collection 

The NASM Collection consists of 262 aircraft; 377 engines; 406 propellers; 
1069 aircraft models; 794 major items of astronautical hardware (spacecraft, 
missiles, rocket motors, etc.); 280 astronautical models; 1500 pieces of art 
including paintings, drawings and sculpture. In addition, the Collection contains 
more than 20,000 miscellaneous items including aircraft instruments, uniforms, 
medals, wings, astronautical equipment, pressure suits, trophies and assorted 

The aircraft collection has a few important gaps that NASM is attempting to 
fill. There are other gaps that will never be filled as no specimens exist. 
Despite this, the collection is probably the most comprehensive in existence, 
including such aircraft as the Wright Flyer, first successful airplane; the Ryan 
NYP Spirit of St. Louis , used by Lindbergh for the first solo flight across the 
Atlantic; the Douglas World Cruiser Chicago , first airplane to fly around the 
world; the Bell X-1, first airplane to exceed the speed of sound; and the B-29 
Enola Gay , the airplane that dropped the first atomic bomb. 


The spacecraft collection is very complete because of the NASA artifact 
agreement under which all NASA space vehicles are made available to NASM. It 
includes Freedom 7, in which Alan Shepard made the first U.S. spaceflight; 
Friendship 7, in which John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth; 
Gemini 4, from which Ed White made the first walk in space; and the Apollo 11 
Command Module that carried Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins to the moon. 

The scientific collections of the NASM consist primarily of lunar photographs, 
satellite photographs of earth, and the supporting data and documentation. This 
is the most comprehensive collection of its type in existence. 

The art collection includes flat art, sculptures, and objects d'art pertaining 
to both atmospheric and space flight. The space art collection is very good and 
quite extensive. Most of it was transferred to NASM from NASA. The aviation art 
collection is not only much smaller, but of a much lower overall quality. It is, 
however, augmented by art borrowed from the Air Force and other collections. 

The remainder of the collection, and by far the largest numerically, includes 
supporting material such as engines, propellers, rocket motors, space suits, 
uniforms, medals, instruments, parachutes, and flight clothing. 

The research files include aviation and space photos, aircraft construction 
drawings, biographical and historical material, technical manuals, and general 
aeronatuical and astronautical information. 


The NASM Library has an extensive collection of books, journals, and magazines 
of the historical and technological aspects of air and space flight. A feature 
of the Library is the Ramsey Memorial Room, in which rare and scarce books, 
letters, and documents are stored. One of its treasures is a book signed by 
Pilatre de Rozier, who piloted the Montgolfier balloon in the first manned flight 
in history. 

Use of the Collection 

The NASM collections support three basic categories scientific, 

technological, and historical. Scientific research is supported by the collection 
of lunar photos, satellite earth photos, and supporting data. Members of the 
NASM staff use this material to provide accurate lunar cartography and for published 
studies of various lunar geographical features. The material is also used for 
reference by scientific groups from NASA and other agencies. 

Technological support is provided to constructors of aircraft, both full 
sized and model, NASM restores its air and space craft to their original configu- 
rations with great accuracy and attention to detail. These restorations, besides 
being used for display, assure the preservation of the technology and are available 
to other researchers for study. The Tech Order files, aircraft drawings, and 
photographs are invaluable to the staff and to outside researchers. NASM has the 
complete drawing files for Waco, Stearman, and Ryan aircraft, which are very 
popular with the homebuilders and reconstructors. Also, NASM maintains a file of 
model aircraft drawings which are sold at a nominal cost. The entire collection, 
including air and space craft engines, equipment, associated memorabilia, photos 
and documentation is regularly researched by historians. Hobbyists, aviation and 


space buffs, journalists, Federal Agencies, patent attorneys, and cominerical 
aviation businessmen make wide use of our photo and drawing files and are permitted 
to photograph and measure minute details of some of the air and space craft. 

The general public's main contact with the collection is through the exhibit 
program. At the present time, several hundred major air and space artifacts are 
on exhibit in the NASM building and at Silver Hill. The NASM building had almost 
10,000,000 visitors during its first year of operation. 

Many of the NASM publications deal directly with articles in the collection 
or with subjects related to the collection. 

NASM is regularly visited by school groups who, we hope, obtain some air and 
space education during their visits. Pre-visit packages are prepared by our 
education department for distribution to schools. Docents are also provided to 
lead these groups. 

The Library and NASM staff also respond to a large number of informational 
requests from schools and individuals. In many cases, these are answered by 
pamphlets which have been prepared on some of the more popular subjects. 



Collecting Art was included as one of the functions of the Smithsonian from 
the beginning. The collections from the National Institute, founded in 1840, 
were added to the Smithsonian holdings in 1862. With the Smithsonian becoming 
the recipient for art donated to the government, the Smithsonian art collections 
were designated in 1906 as the National Gallery of Art. In 1937 this bureau 
became the National Collection of Fine Arts. It is important to review these 
facts in examining the museum's collections. 

By tradition as well as by mandate, the NCFA collects art of the United 
States of both the past and present. The collections consist of over 20,000 
items. While this figure includes many fine examples of European and Asian art 
from the National Gallery period, by far the largest portion is of American work. 
There are about 4,000 paintings, 1,200 sculptures, 12,000 works on paper and the 
remainder in decorative arts. Thousands of items have been transferred from its 
collection to other bureaus when such transactions make possible a better manage- 
ment of the collections. For example, 8,000 engraving portraits were transferred 
to the National Portrait Gallery in 1964. In 1958 and 1959 the Reverend Alfred 
Duan Pell collection of about 1,200 plus approximately 200 other pieces were 
transferred to N^IHT . These were decorative art objects primarily of ceramics, 
glass, and enamels. Earlier 41 items were transferred to Ethnology in NMNH. 
Another large group of several pieces from the Adams-Clement collection were 
transferred to NMHT during its founding years. 


Outstanding collections within the NCFA 

The collection contains not only the outstanding masters of American art, 
but it also has important holdings by lesser known artists whose works must be 
studied in order to comprehend the scope of our art. 

The Harriet Lane Johnson collection accessioned in 1906 consists of 29 
pieces of American and European art. The William T. Evans collection, accessioned 
in 1907 consists of over 100 pieces, outstanding among these are American 
impressionists, particularly rich in late 19th century American art. 

The John Gellatly collection was accessioned in 1929. It includes over 300 
important works of art, plus many pieces of decorative arts. Outstanding in the 
collection are paintings by Abbott Thayer, Thomas Dewing and 17 paintings by 
Albert Pinkman Ryder, the largest and most complete collection in existence. 

In contemporary art. International Business Machines transferred over 100 
works in 1966. In 1971 the Museum of Modem Art transferred almost 100 pieces of 
art executed for the Works Progress Administration and since then the General 
Services Administration has transferred over 1,000. The most significant single 
collection to come into the collection in recent years was the S.C. Johnson and 
Sons, Inc., collection of over 100 outstanding examples of contemporary painting. 

With the transfer of over 400 Indian paintings by George Catlin, Charles 
Bird King and John Mix Stanley from the Museum of Natural History, the NCFA is 
the richest source of study of this subject. 


This collection of art is the most complete coverage of American art on 
public view and covers important aspects that may often be ignored. For example 
a special gallery is designed to display part of the collection of over 300 
American minatures. Every object in the collection is available for study, 
whether on view or in storage. 



The Smithsonian has been developing collections in the several fields of 
history for over one hundred years. At first it was necessarily a very limited 
operation, undertaken with a small staff and negligible budget. Even through 
the 1930' s and 1940' s there were only ten or eleven history curators, most of 
whom had little or no formal training for their jobs. For the most part they 
collected well; the bulk of what they added to the museum we still have, and 
are glad to have. 

In the 1950' s there was an important change in the level of these 
activities. The Smithsonian stressed our need for special attention, and the 
Congress responded with authorization for a new museum and for the staff to 
operate it. The result was a surge of action that has manifested itself in a 
new generation of exhibits, in a series of scholarly publications, and in 
substantially increased collections. 

The increased responsibility for collecting required closer attention to 
what we were doing. Staff development emphasized professionals with expertise 
in the primary collecting fields. Curators with graduate degrees in m.useum 
studies, in history, and in the history of science became more the rule than 
the exception. These were people who had a special understanding for the need 
to preserve three-dimensional documents of history, and each applied that 
understanding to the field of his responsibility. There was no formal directive 
telling what had to be done. It was assumed that each curator understood the 
needs and that adjustments could be made through established administrative 


By the early 1960's che curatorial staff had increased by a factor of 
four, with comparable increases in supporting staff and budget. One of the 
results — as intended — was a dramatic increase in the rate of collecting 
and, eventually, pressure on our storage facilities. As a consequence, we are 
now asked the extent to which we are intelligently managing our collections — 
a reasonable question that may be answered through the responses to a series 
of subsidiary questions. 

I. The process of making intelligent decisions about collecting 

1. Goals of the Museum. 

There is no formal statement of goals for this museum, although certain 
things are clearly understood. We collect, study, preserve, exhibit, and 
otherwise make available man-made objects which have historical value to our 
own culture (excluding art, air and space science and technology, which are 
collected by other Smithsonian museums) . "Our own culture" is generally 
interpreted to mean that of this country. As a result, we have concentrated 
collecting on objects that were either made or used in the United States. 
Exceptions occur primarily in science and technology, where international 
influences are fundamental, and in philately and numismatics. 

Virtually every nation in the world has responded to similar needs. From 
the oldest to the youngest, from the most primitive to the most advanced, 
there is a common feeling for the need to preserve physical evidence of the 
national heritage in a museum setting. It is a matter of pride. It is a 


matter of deep-seated desire to know where we have been and to establish 
direct contact with our past through real objects. 

Our collections are used in a variety of ways. A portion are exhibited, 
where they can be a source of inspiration, of education, and of entertainment 
to the public. Some objects may stay on exhibition for indefinite periods — 
the Star Spangled Banner, the gunboat Philadelphia, the Model T Ford. But 
other exhibits — celebrating the centennial of the telephone, or the bicentennial 
of the country, or the recent acquisition of some early plastics — are changed 
periodically, lending a fresh face to the m.usuem and showing off som.e thing of 
the depth of its holdings. 

The collections are available for study, especially by historians who are 
increasingly becoming aware of the value of objects in the analysis of historical 
processes. These scholars include .members of our own staff, pre- and post- 
doctoral fellows supported by the Institutuion for work here, and various 
others who com.e to use our holdings. Products of this research have appeared 
in Smithsonian publications as well as in historical journals and books. 

The collections are also used by free-lance writers, by television, by 
the film industry and by government agencies in ways too numerous to mention. 
In each case care is taken to assure that such use is for non-commercial 
purposes . 

Each use of the collections places demands on both the objects and the 
staff. The attitude of the museum has been to respond as positively as possible 
on the grounds that these are all legitimate uses of the objects x^ithin the 
goals set in collecting them. 


2. Controls exercized in terms of museum goals 

Much of what we do must be addressed to the problem of attacking a large 
and growing body of collectables with what is still a relatively small staff 
(the Science Museum in London, for instance, has a staff of science-technology 
curators approximately double ours). The need for efficiency is great. And 
since the curator plays such a critical role in the decision-making process, 
increasing attention has been paid to the initial selection of people for 
these positions. The universities, in recent years, have developed programs 
in museology, in material culture, and in the history of science and technology 
thus providing us with a pool of potential staff members. This has helped us 
considerably in our searches. 

Once here, the new curator is encouraged to do historical research in the 
conviction that this activity is essential for responsible pursuit of the 
other duties. In order to acquaint the new curator with our objectives and 
processes, he or she is (under a new program) given special training and is 
exposed to many of the operations of the museum. 

The curatorial position is usually subjected to two levels of supervisory 
control (Divisional and Departmental) plus the Director of the museum. Formal 
reviews of activity are made at least once a year, and informal discussions 
occur more often. These reveiws explicitly cover collections activity, as 
indicated under the Civil Service Classification Standards in such terms as, 
"There is a continuing responsibility for the development and maintenance of a 
'balanced' collection." Every three years, performance is considered by a 
peer group, the Professional Accomplishments Evaluation Committee, which 
considers these same factors and makes recommendations to the Director. 


All major acquisitions must be justified and presented by the curator to 
a Collections Committee of staff members, which is also advisory to the Director, 
This process is designed to enhance the probability that collecting decisions 
will be in conformity with the basic museum goals. 

3. "Endangered species" 

On occasion an item becomes knowTi only when it is about to disappear 
into oblivion. Opportunities are still missed, of course. Sometimes we don't 
learn about them until after the event, or the money is not available. It 
has, however, often been possible to act quickly when the need was perceived. 
For instance, significant early patent models were recently obtained at auction, 
political ephemera have been picked off the convention floor just ahead of the 
sweepers, and a highly significant 25-ton radio-frequency alternator rescued 
from a GAO excess property list, even when private funds were required for its 
transport. In most instances, the difficulty of responding with dispatch is 
not related to the decision process, but rather to money. 

A . Adjustment to the work of other museums 

All curators, as part of their professional expertise, are knowledgeable 
about other museums and collections in their fields. In some cases there is a 
healthy rivalry in the pursuit of material. But for the most part there is a 


sense of cooperation in pursuit of a mutual goal. Small boats, for instance, 
which might reasonably be collected as part of a marine history activity, 
would in fact create considerable storage and maintenace problems; and since 
they are successfully collected by others, we are content to encourage them 
and to devote our energies elsewhere. A similar situation is found with 
respect to locomotives, although in this case a few representative examples 
are preserved for exhibition purposes. There are many examples of lending our 
experience and our artifacts to other museums, witness the example of time 
spent by one curator in helping to develop exhibits in the Oakland (California) 
Museum, or the objects that were sent from the electrical collections to 
various museums, some as far away as India. There are also some attempts at 
developing national artifact catalogues: one is a long-term, continuing 
project on a National Inventory of Scientific Instruments; another is a 
partially-completed project on medical instruments. Unfortunately, experince 
has shown that however laudable — and useful — such enterprises may be, they 
can be very time consuming and fraught with a variety of difficulties. They 
should not be undertaken without a clear understanding of their scope, of the 
amount of support needed, and of the probability of completion. 

5 . Disposal of what is not needed 

There are means by which objects in the collections can be deaccessioned . 
These procedures are purposely made complex in order to assure that no hasty 
decisions are made which might result in the loss of a valuable specimen. The 
result is that the number of items disposed of in this manner is relatively 

A- 36 

small. No systematic "weeding" of the collections has been attempted, because 
we have never had the required staff. A possible recommendation of this 
committee might be to suggest that a detailed examination of one collection be 
made on a trial basis to determine the actual work involved and the percent of 
objects that could be superfluous. 

II. Preservation of the collections 

In most instances an £ict of preservation has been made in simply taking a 
specimen into the museum's wing and removing it from the hazards of the regular 
environment. Unfortunately, this is not always true. Objects can meet with 
damage in a museum setting, and storage conditions, especially off the Mall, 
are not always ideal. Fully two-thirds (by volume) of the collections are 
presently housed in facilities at Silver Hill, Maryland, where there are wide 
temperature fluctuations and no humidity controls. Most of these objects are 
relatively unaffected by such conditions — at least over the short run. But 
some are not, to their detriment. A recommendation of this committee might be 
to determine what percentage of these collections may be in real danger and to 
suggest what can be done about it. 


Even within the museum building objects are not all stored in an optimum 
fashion. This is particularly true of textiles and costumes, some of which 
must be folded or layered because of crowded conditions. 


Active steps are also taken to preserve an object. These, as a rule, are 
as simple as possible in order to minimize the chance of damage being done. 
Fumigation of certain materials is an obvious and virtually automatic step. 
Otherwise, simple cleaning is the most often applied remedy. In the long 
term, especially for metals, more extensive cleaming may be called for, 
followed by the application of a protective coating. An example of extensive 
preservation and restoration (returning an item to its original condition — a 
procedure not always desired for museum specimens) is the work done by the 
Science and Technology Technical Laboratory for the 1876 Centennial exhibit. 
Twelve people spent almost two and a half years processing 171 requests (many 
of which included several objects) ranging froma 20-ton steam engine and 
ordnance guns of similar weight to tuning forks and telegraph instruments. 

Expert 'advice in identifying problems and suggesting solutions is available 
to the museum through the Institution's Conservation Analytical Laboratory. 
But most of the actual work falls back on the laboratories and individuals 
associated with the departments and divisions. These embrace a wealth of 
experience, equipment, and expertise for handling everything from textiles and 
harpsichords to automobiles and electrical generators. A common complaint of 
curators, made in a recent survey, was that the amount of help available in 
the divisions for this type of work is inadequte and that as a result the 
collections must suffer in the long run. A recommendation of this committee 
might be that this problem should be consdiered in more detail and that a 
determination should be made on how best to handle active preservation methods. 

A- 38 

III. Accessibility of the collections and of information about them . 

1. The recording of data. 

For historical reasons, connected with the differing needs of different 
collections, there is no single museum-wide catalog card. There is, hoxjever, 
a central registrar and registration system. Throughout the museum standard 
procedure calls for groups of items, received in the same transaction, to be 
given a single registration number after the necessary steps have been taken 
to transfer title. The registrar receives at the least a list of objects 
included. Additional information may be added to the registrar's file, including 
background correspondence and detailed descriptive material. The objects 
themselves are given individual catalog numbers, and they are described for 
the catalog files of the division. Usually these files provide for cross- 
indexes (by subject, date, donor, maker, associated person, place of origin, 
etc.). The catalog cards may vary greatly in information content from one to 
another, even within the same division or the same subject area. 

In general, cataloguing is kept current. There are, however, two or 
three large documentary and photographic collections which, contrary to usual 
policy, were accessioned in the same manner as objects. These should probably 
be removed from the registrar's roles and treated as documentary collections, 
where individual items are not ordinarily specifically identified. In addition, 
there are small packets of cataloguing backlogs, some a product of bicentennial 
activity, which are being cleared up. 


One of the greatest needs in the museum is for improved card files (also 
an essential step prior to any computerization) . Most curators point to the 
fact that support personnel for this work and other activities (secretaries, 
technicians and specialists), which was at a ratio considered low then of 2.2 
per curator in 1966, dropped to 1.8 in 1976. 

An important step has recently been taken in establishing a small team to 
conduct an inventory of collections, division by division, directed by the 
Office of the Registrar. This will give us for the first time an overall 
check upon our collections and our accession and catalog files. 

2. Accessibility of the records 

The central registration file provides information on all accessions. As 
indicated, the descriptive input from the divisions is likely to be limited, 
but additional papers are kept here, including correspondence pertinent to the 
original transfer, which are often quite revealing. An initial step has been 
made towards computerizing the registrar's files, but this has only been begun 
during the past two or three years, and is limited in the number of descriptors. 
This is, in fact, an enormous task, especially if previous accessions are to 
be included, and certainly if detailed information is to be added. 

Principal catalog files are maintained by divisions, often with cross- 
indexes. Some divisions, notably in cultural history, have successfully used 
mechanical means for retrieving data using a relatively large number of cross- 


indexes. Some beginnings have been made towards com.puterizing individual 
collections, notably with guns, microscopes and clocks. In each case a special 
effort was made and additional personnel were used. If computers are to be 
employed it is to be expected that a large initial expenditure of time and 
money will be necessary, presumably done by working on a small number of 
collections at any one time. 

It should be noted that in spite of the lack of good mechanical retrieval 
systems, the catalogs are used effectively by a wide variety of people during 
the course of a year, including staff members, volunteer assistants, pre- and 
post-doctoral fellows, other students, patent searchers, donors, and a variety 
of others with legitimate purposes. 

3. Accessibility of the collections 

As mentioned above, one-third of the storage volume is located in the 
museum. This probably means that over half the objects are located here (even 
discounting coins and stamps), since the larger pieces are usually relegated 
to the Silver Hill facility. Most of these objects are shelved or otherwise 
stored in a manner that allovzs quick and easy access. The situation is being 
further improved by the installation of new units with glass doors which 
provide physical protection yet at the same time allow for visual inspection. 
This means that these collections are easily accessible to the staff and 
others, greatly improving their value for a variety of purposes. (This situation 
is in marked contrast to that in most large museums of similar subject matter.) 

•■ A-Al • 

Objects at Silver Hill are of course less accessible, though even there efforts 
over the past few years have produced a great improvement. 

IV. Growth of collections 

As a supplement to data given elsewhere in this report, counts were made, 
from divisional records, of the number of items collected by the Department of 
Science and Technology and by the Division of Cultural History (adjusting in 
each case to the composition of 1976). The results — reproduced on the next 
page — show a break occurring in the mid 1950' s with the development of the 
new msueum and the hiring of new personnel for it. Furthermore, and of special 
importance, the curves before and after the break are in the form of straight 
lines. Data for the entire museum were also plotted, and similar results were 
obtained. It is important to note that support for the msueum — especially 
in terms of curatorial staff positions — was relatively constant before and 
after the break: ten or twelve curators over the two or three decades before 
the break, and about 42 soon after. The implication is very strong that, on 
the average, a given number of curators will collect a certain number of items 
over the course of a year. It also implies that the museum is not becoming 
saturated, that the staff feels there are still many things worth collecting. 
One reason for this is that collectables are continually being produced, in 
the form of political campaign memorabilia, new electronic devices, new designs 
for home furnishings. But there is the additional factor that the old areas 
are far form being exhausted. Conversations with curators during the course 
of this study revealed that in some areas where intense collecting had occurred 


in the past they were being very selective and accepting only a few needed 
items; but at the same time they were turning to new areas that had suffered 
relative neglect. Thus, in Costume, attention is turning from ready-wear to 
designer clothes, in Physics from particle accellerators to cryogenics, in 
Graphic Arts from presses to type-setting and foundry equipment. 

Given the present staff, it is therefore reasonable to expect collections 
to increase linearly at least through the end of the century (an estimate also 
confirmed by conversations with curators). In terms of decision-making 
processes there seems no problem in anticipating that this expected level of 
activity can be handled intelligently: there are clearly objects that should 
be in the msueum and are available for collection, the staff is becoming more 
capable, and the review processes are set and have proven workable. Focus, 
therefore, should be directed towards the treatment of the objects after they 
arrive in the museums. Problems that already exist in the cataloguing and 
preserving (especially storage) of specimens can only become more aggravated. 
Since it would seem self-defeating to the purpose of the museum to limit 
artificially the collecting activity, it is clear that attention needs to be 
paid to the solution of these other twin problems. 




The collections in the National Museum of Natural History encompass the 
entire scope of natural history in its broad sense; the structure and development 
of the earth and other bodies in the solar system; the origin, evolution and diversity 
of life on earth; and the origin and development of mankind and human cultures. 

These collections are distributed among seven research departments: Anthropology 
(including specimens in physical anthropology, archeology and ethnology); Botany; 
Entomology; Invertebrate Zoology; Mineral Sciences; Paleobiology (fossil organisms 
including both plants and animals); and Vertebrate Zoology. 

Although local museums of natural history are expected to cover only the biology, 
geology, and anthropology of their region, the National Museum must be national and 
international in its scope. Our collections should adequately cover all fields, but 
we have not progressed to that point yet. In paleontology we are strong in 
invertebrate fossils of the U.S., but very weak in comparative material from western 
Europe and Asia. Our collection of fossil f oraminif era , used extensively in the 
search for petroleum, is the most important in the world, as is our collection of 
trilobites. However, we lack good collections from certain parts of the geologic 
rock record, and our coverage of some important groups of organisms such as fish 
and ammonites is inadequate. 

In botany, our collections of tropical American and eastern Pacific seed- 
bearing plants are the best in the world, and those of ferns, grasses, and woods 
rank among the top two or three in the world. However, some other kinds of tropical 
plants are inadequately known taxonomically and as a result this collection is 
actively growing. Among the invertebrates our collections of corals, worms, mollusks 
and echinoderms are excellent but we are very weak in collections of hydrocorals, 
ascidians and pterobranchs are nearly static. We must expand these weak collections 


in order to make them more useful, and in the hiring of new scientists we will 
seek specialists in those fields in order to insure the needed growth. 

Our anthropological collections are very strong in American Indian material, 
so much so that we have been turning down collections offered to us. Last year a 
major collection of Eskimo artifacts became available to us but we suggested that 
the material be kept in Alaska so that both the Eskimos and others could use it 
there. Our South American archeology collection is one of the best but our classical 
archeology collections are very weak, and this lack of specimens has hampered our 
efforts this year to build an exhibit hall depicting the history of the rise of 
Western Civilization. 

Our mineral, rock, and meteorite collections are excellent and little growth 
will be necessary although the current extensive search for mineral resources 
requires us to include material found in these searches. 

Table 1 gives a more detailed breakdown of the contents of the collections 
as of 1971, the last year for which comprehensive data are currently available. 


Since its inception the Smithsonian Institution has grown in response to 
the needs of science and of the nation. From its modest beginnings almost one 
and one-half centuries ago, the Institution has become one of the world's foremost 
research organizations. Its first Secretary, Joseph Henry, recognized the financial 
and physical limitations that confronted the infant institution, but also recognized 
the necessity of collecting, preserving and describing the various aspects of the 
natural history of a virtually unexplored continent. The Congress certainly 
appreciated the need for preserving the objects acquired by the various departments 
of the Federal Government, and in establishing the Smithsonian provided that "all 


Table 1 

Specimens in the National Collections-May 1, 1971 


Department of Anthropology: 

Archeology 847,297 

Ethnology 198,922 

Physical Anthropology 38 , 333 

TOTALS 1,084,552 

Department of Botany: 3,476", 481 

Department of Entomology: 

Total in former Division of Insects, 1963 15,978,513 
Totals for new divisions, since 1963: 

Coleoptera 941,008 

Hemlptera and Hymenoptera 722,806 

Lepidoptera and Diptera 749,628 

• Myriapoda and Arachnida 497,401 

Neuropteroids 467 , 879 

TOTALS 19,339,235 

Department of Invertebrate Zoology: 

Crustacea 1,674,774 

Echinoderms 115,265 

Mollusks 10,192,618 

Worms 813,317 

TOTALS ■ 12,795,974 

Department of Mineral Sciences: 

Meteorites • 14,000 

Mineralogy 173,253 

Petrology and Volcanology 306 ,546 

TOTALS ' 493,899 

Department of Paleobiology: 

Invertebrate Paleontology 13,579,129 

Vertebrate Paleontology 59,340 

Paleobotany 6,726 

Sedimentology 1,908 

TOTALS 13,647,103 

Department of Vertebrate Zoology: 

Birds 539,767 

Fishes 2,225,800 

Mammals 437,389 

Reptiles and Amphibians 175,453 

TOTALS 3,378,399 

GRAND TOTAI. 54,215,643 


objects of art and of foreign and curious research, and all objects of natural 
history, plants, and geological and mineralogical specimens belonging to or 
hereafter to belong to the United States, which may be in the city of Washington, 
in whosesoever custody the same may be, shall be delivered to such persons as may 
be authorized by the Board of Regents to receive them." (Fourth Annual Report, 
P. 20) 

The activities of federally supported surveys and expeditions, and of agencies 
such as the Geological Survey and the Fish Commission resulted in priceless 
additions to the museum and created a pressing need for increased research. It 
became clear that the Smithsonian could not ignore the need for a general museum, 
and the National Museum was established as a separate entity in 1874. 

Detailed knowledge of the flora, fauna and geology of our continent was 
needed during the early rapid growth of the nation in order to support the fullest 
exploitation of our seemingly inexhaustible natural resources. Today we can 
recognize the effects of the ensuing over-exploitation and contamination of the 
environment created by a rapidly expanding population, and can appreciate the 
importance of a complete understanding of the natural system of which we are a part. 
Now as never before we need the information contained in collections of natural 
history, and now as never before we need to preserve the vanishing traces of our 
predecessors on this continent and of past cultures and civilizations everywhere. 

Today the National Museum of Natural History is one of the five or six major 
world centers of basic research in the natural sciences. Its collections, assembled 
over more than a century, rank among the most important research resources in the \ 
world and in many specialties are unequalled. The scientific staff numbers 113 , 
internationally recognized specialists who daily make use of the collections under 
their care for a variety of purposes ranging from routine confirmation of identification 


to highly original fundamental research on special subjects. Through their 
scientific activities and professional relationships with colleagues around the 
world, valuable new material frequently becomes available to the museum. In the 
light of their intimate knowledge of their specialties, they apply an appropriate 
set of criteria to all potential additions to the collections and select for 
accessioning those specimens that will materially enhance the scientific value of 
the collection as a whole. 

Importance of the Collection s 

Objects — natural and artif actual — are the objective basis of our knowledge 
of the earth and its inhabitants, including man and his development, diversity, 
and cultures. All studies of the physical and natural world depend upon these 
objects, and one of the primary functions of a museum is to preserve them for present 
and future research and education, and as a record of human knowledge and achievement 
Owing to the prestigious position that the Smithsonian Institution early came to 
occupy in many fields of knowledge, as well as to the high qualifications of its 
professional staff, its Natural History museum has attracted many collections 
of outstanding scientific significance. These collections serve many purposes: 

1. They are the basis for scientific research on the nature, relationships, 
origin and development of plants, animals, man and his cultures; 

and on the origin, formation and structure of the earth and its 
extraterrestrial neighbors. 

2. They form, through the biological type-collections, a systematic 
"bureau of standards" whereby the precise identity of each kind of 
plant and animal described in the scientific literature is objectively 
defined and documented and permanently maintained in the interests of 

. A-49 

worldwide scientific stability. 

3. They provide a scientific record of the flora and fauna that inhabits, 
and has inhabited, diverse parts of this earth; they document the 
natural biotic assemblages that occurred in many parts of this and other 
continents prior to their alteration, disruption, and in some cases total 
destruction through human activities, natural catastrophes and adjustments 
through geological time; and they record and document such assemblages 

in areas today threatened by expanding human intervention that^ inevitably 
will irreversibly alter or completely destroy the natural environment. 

4. They provide scientific documentation for many kinds of experimental 
research relative to the natural environment conducted by scientists 
and research organizations throughout the nation. 

5. Archeological and ethnological collections attest to the origin, 
development, and persistence of different cultures, to the rates of 
change in these cultures, and to the characteristics of particular 
cultures at different periods in history. 

6. They provide a most effective tool for the training of coming generations 
of scientists, and, through related museum educational programs, for 
informing the general public about the world's endangered natural heritage 
and shrinking resources. 

Use of the Collections for Environmental and Pollution Studies 

The increasing awareness of the extent to which man is polluting and destroying 
the environment, as well as merely altering it, has resulted in many current environ- 
mental studies. Proposed new land usage, development, and commercial exploitation 
must now be preceded by scientifically sound environmental impact studies. Their 


preparation usually requires the use of systematic collections and in turn often 
generate collections of a supportive or "voucher" character. It is part of the 
scientific obligation of the Museum to maintain collections that are useful for 
such studies, and to preserve for future use and possible re-analysis the best 
voucher collections made during those studies. 

Collections of this kind, depending upon their scope, comprise the base-line 
data against which environmental changes can be evaluated in the future. Even the 
old collections, made long before such considerations were anticipated, now provide 
many kinds of base-line data. They show us what kinds of organisms lived where, 
and this, in turn, reveals something of their original ecology. They can tell us 
something about the levels of some (but by no means all) of the pollutants that were 
present at the time of collection, for comparison with existing conditions. 

We can already point to far too many areas damaged beyond reclamation by the 
effluvia of development, areas irretrievably lost to any activity by waste disposal. 
The Potomac River, lapping at Washington's doorstep, is an example that is rapidly 
approaching this stage. Other areas have passed the point of no return and may 
never be reclaimed so long as human activity persists. If such areas lack a 
foundation of basic knowledge, it already is too late to make any statement about 
original conditions or the causes, directions and rates of deterioration. 

The staggering contemporary problem of wisely managing our environment to 
ensure that human alterations do not irreparably disrupt natural balances cannot 
be solved without a detailed knowledge of the plants and animals, not only those 
directly affected by man's developments but also those seemingly remote from our 
influence. It is well known that it is impossible to disrupt the populations of 
one species without affecting many that are interdependent. The cornerstone of this 


knowledge is a thorough understanding of the classification and relationships of 
the various species of plants and animals. Even though men of science have been 
striving toward such understanding for more than two mlllenla, methodically so 
for more than two centuries, it remains incomplete for most plant and animal groups 
and extremely fragmentary for many of them. 

One of the major reasons that our knowledge of biological classification is 
Incomplete is the inadequacy of samples available for scientific study. A reliable 
result can be obtained only if the material utilized is reasonably representative 
of the species being studied, over its whole geographical and morphological range. 
Therefore, the basic tool available to the systematic scientist is a comprehensive 
collection of specimens for study. The less material available for study, the less 
accurate and less useful that study is likely to be. 

Use of the Collections for Basic Research 

The principal users of the Museum's collections are scientists and scholars 
both from within the Smithsonian and from elsewhere. Because of the scope of the 
collections they are indispensable to specialists from throughout the nation and the 
world. A major need of visiting scientists is to compare their own specimens against 
the standards of the original type specimens. Another requirement is to study large 
suites of specimens to evaluate the extent and nature of geographical and individual 
variation and to clarify biogeographical distributions. Still another need is to 
examine specimens from specific geographical locations in order to investigate 
some special feature, such as breeding condition, or to search for developmental 
stages in adult specimens. 

The history of research proves that no study, no matter how thorough, is ever 
complete. This is especially true in the biological sciences where we constantly 


refine and expand the work done by our predecessors. So a thorough systematic 
study, modern in its time, inevitably will be refined in the future as technology 
improves, as knowledge on all fronts advances, as the various areas of the earth 
are more thoroughly explored, and such refinements depend basically upon the same 
materials that formed the foundations of previous investigations. As an obligation 
to future generations, we preserve as a record of our research, the hard objective 
facts — the specimens themselves — upon which the work was based. Without them, 
knowledge cannot advance further. 

Use for Education 

The study collections of the National Museum of Natural History form an 
invaluable source of research material for students both from this country and abroad 
who are working toward advanced degrees in all phases of systematic biology, earth 
sciences and anthropology. Today few academic institutions maintain research 
collections essential for this fundamental aspect of scholarly training, so many 
students find it necessary to work for substantial periods (up to a year, or even 
more) on the Museum's collections during the preparation of required theses and 
dissertations, in order to study adequate amounts of comparative and distributional 
material and to confirm taxonomic decisions by reference to original type-specimens. 

Several members of the research staff are adjunct faculty members at various 
universities and from time to time direct the thesis research of candidates 
for advanced degrees. Students working under these curator/professors make even 
greater use of the research collections, often studying material collected in the 
course of official museum programs and occasionally participating in the field work 
during which specimens are acquired. In this way, graduate students are trained in 
sound museological techniques, learn good research and field methods in actual 


practice, and have access to one of the world's major study collections. The 
collections benefit from the original research and thorough curatorial care that 
results from supervised student use, and the students benefit from the scope of 
material and scientific expertise made available to them. 

At lower levels of education (primary, secondary, undergraduate), classes 
make use of the exhibits maintained on public display, which consist of selected 
specimens from the Museum's permanent collections enhanced by explanatory text 
that can be elaborated upon further by class instructors or docent guides. College- 
level instructors may also conduct their classes on guided tours through various 
parts of the research departments, thus providing students with an introduction 
to the research purposes, activities and facilities of a major museum. 

Photographs and drawings of specimens and graphic archival materials in all 
fields of natural history, but especially in anthropology and ethnology, are 
frequently reproduced in text books as well as popular books in the trade, with 
the effect that Smithsonian research collections serve a far wider educational 
purpose than is ordinarily realized. 

Exhibits Use 

Although comparatively few specimens out of the millions in the research 
collections are placed on public display, a selected few outstanding ones are, 
in order to demonstrate the various aspects of geology, biology and anthropology, 
explained in the exhibits. In addition, the conception and planning of exhibits 
of scientific topics is firmly based on knowledge derived from the research 


Uses by Industry 

Qualified personnel in industry, such as biologists employed by environmental 
consultants, also may use the collections for conf inning scientific identifications, 
determining the composition of the biota of a given area under study, or compiling 
the distribution of organisms of interest. Their usage of the research collections 
is always under the supervision of museum curatorial staff. It is similar to 
that of the staff, but is more comparative in nature rather than for original 

This comparative use of the collections has been most important in recent 
years as an aid in the search for oil. The fossil remains of single-celled marine 
animals called Foraminifera are commonly found in the rock cuttings which come 
up in well drilling. The evolutionary and ecological distributions for these 
organisms were largely worked out by Joseph A. Cushman in the first 3 decades 
of the Twentieth Century, and this information was very important in the discovery 
of the oil fields of Texas, California, Oklahoma and the mid-continent region. The 
Cushman Collection is an important element in the Museum's collections and was 
used recently in the exploration for the Prudhoe Bay, Alaska oil fields. These 
collections, and many others like them, are in constant use for comparative purposes 
and have paid for their upkeep many times over in the benefits which have been 
derived from them. 

Size of the Collections 

The Museum's holdings now number nearly 60 million specimens and occupy 
some 373,000 square feet of space. This area is distributed as follows among the 
scientific disciplines: 


Anthropology 65,600 square feet 

Botany 37,000 

Entomology 22,500 

Invertebrate Zoology 47,500 

Mineral Sciences 14,500 

Paleobiology 11,100 

Vertebrate Zoology 107,700 
Details on rates of growth and sizes of individual collections are given later 
in this report. 

Growth of the Collections 

Rates of Growth 

Growth of the collections is strictly controlled by the scientific staff who 
curate and use them and by the administration, and is partially offset by reappraisal 
of specimens and the disposal of those specimens that do not meet contemporary 
standards of research. Over the last 30 years, the collections have grown from 
approximately 17,500,000 specimens to about 58,000,000 specimens. The figures 
below show that the decade immediately following World War II was a time of 
exceptional growth, with relatively modest growth since that time. 

1945-1955 Increase from 17,466,000 specimens; 

a 250% increase. 
1955-1965 Increase from 42,000,000 to 49,000,000 specimens; 

a 16% increase. 
1965-1975 Increase from 49,000,000 to 58,000,000 specimens; 

an increase of 18%. 


In the last decade the Museum has grown each year at a rate of approximately 
1.8 percent. For example, the average annual growth rate in the Department of 
Invertebrate Zoology over the last 30 years is 1.12%. In the Department of 
Entomology the collections have grown from 18,712,627 to 20,540,592 accessioned 
specimens from 1969 to 1975, for an average annual growth rate of 1.6%. The growth 
rate in the Department of Anthropology is estimated at less than 3% per year, with 
the bulk of growth occurring in the archeology collections. 

On the basis of these statistics we predict that the Museum's collections 
will increase by some 12,700,000 specimens between 1975 and 1985. 

On a national scale a growth rate 1-2% annually is projected for all natural 
history collections. 

Reasons for Growth 

The collections of natural history are both the basis for and the record of 
exploration and research done to increase human knowledge. As such, they form the 
objective foundation of knowledge in these fields of endeavor, and because our 
mission is the "increase and diffusion of knowledge"' about a subject — the less we 
know the more rapidly the collections are likely to grow as more is learned. 

In the general field of natural history the need to increase and diffuse 

knowledge makes it inevitable that the collections upon which knowledge is based 

must grow. Clearly, it is impossible to obtain a knowledge of the flora and fauna 

of the earth and their evolution without having representative specimens of plants, 

animals and fossils; we cannot obtain a knowledge of man's origins development and 

cultures without having representative specimens of human remains and human works; 


America's Systematics Collections: A National Plan. 1973. Published by the 

Association of Systematics Collections. 


we cannot know the structure and formation of the earth without a collection of 
its building blocks, the rocks and minerals and sediments. 

When Carolus Linnaeus published the 10th edition of his Systema Naturae , 
the cornerstone of the modern science of zoology, in 1758, he knew about 184 
kinds of mammals; today, we recognize more than 5,000 kinds. Linnaeus knew about 
554 kinds of birds in 1758, but today we know there are at least 8,600 kinds. 
Linnaeus knew 91 kinds of crustaceans in 1758, but today more than 25,000 kinds 
are known to science and every exploratory expedition shows that there remain 
many more to be discovered. Thus, to be an adequate research tool, a collection 
today must be many times as large as it was two hundred years ago. 

Apart from knowing many more kinds of organisms today, we also have learned 
a great deal more about them, and this knowledge requires larger collections. 
For example, we have learned that many kinds of shrimps and crabs have a complex 
life cycle that involves several morphologically different stages which may differ 
as much from species to species as the adult animals do. Therefore, to understand 
the ontogeny of many species, as well as their interrelationships, we must know 
their various stages, and to do this we must have larger collections than were 
necessary when science was younger. We have learned that animals may vary morpho- 
logically from place to place, and may do so gradually along a geographical range 
to such an extent that individuals from the end points may differ so greatly that 
they look like separate species. To understand this phenomenon, to recognize 
clearly the limits of natural genetic species, and to understand variation as it 
relates to speciation and to environmental conditions, we need not just a few 
specimens of what we think to be the "typical" form, but instead a series of 
specimens taken over a geographical range to demonstrate the nature and extent of 



Even though we believe that we have now explored all the major parts of the 
world, there remain even in the 20th century many regions and localities about which 
we know little. As we explore these areas geographically and investigate their 
natural history, we find that we need still more collections to support this 
knowledge. A good example is the Antarctic, the fauna of which was virtually 
unknown until the early 20th century when adequate means of exploration were 
developed. For many years, crude collecting methods yielded only a relative handful 
of specimens from all the expeditions that ventured there. Even though an American 
was a pioneer Antarctic explorer, the Antarctic natural history collections in the 
Smithsonian occupied only a shelf or two (apart from the birds and mammals, always 
the first animals to attract scientific attention) until modern technology and 
increased interest made large scale investigations feasible. Operations of the 
U.S. Navy and the National Science Foundation have resulted in comprehensive 
collections of the flora, fauna and geology. Now the Smithsonian collections have 
grown many fold in this area, to the point where previous knowledge of the biota 
can be synthesized and modernized on a firm foundation. 

Field Work as a Source of Growth 

Collections in the broad field of natural history commonly are augmented 
through the field work of the members of the Museum's scientific staff. Not 
infrequently, research upon a subject of particular interest- will demonstrate 
gaps in geographic or stratigraphic representation that must be filled before any 
meaningful conclusion can be drawn. In such a case, the scientist may arrange 
for field work in the pertinent area specifically to obtain the specimens he needs 
to complete his studies. Depending upon locality, subject matter and circumstances, 


the curator may either limit his collecting to his own specialty, or collect and 
preserve other specimens as well. If the locality is a remote one, from which the 
Museum has little representation in general or which is in danger of loss or 
destruction through commercialization and which may not be visited again, it is 
likely that general collections will be made to augment Museum holdings in a 
variety of specialties. These "collections of opportunity" are extremely 
important and greatly contribute to the research potential of the Museum's 
collections in general. If, on the other hand, the locality is accessible, one from 
which general collections already exist, and the scientist's field work has a specific 
mission, only a certain category of specimens may be collected. 


One of the most important ways that the Museum's collections grow is 
through the gift of specimens from scientists, private collectors, and other 
institutions. The members of the Museum's scientific staff maintain a close 
and cooperative relationship with other researchers around the world. Because of 
this, and because the Museum offers the most stable depository in the U.S. for 
unique and irreplaceable research materials, many type-specimens as well as other 
material upon which research reports have been based are donated to the Museum 
upon the completion of investigations by scientists in other institutions. Specimens 
of this kind are the objective evidence for published research, much of which is 
of inestimable value in assessing the condition of our environment and formulating 
ways of managing it and interpreting the impact of evolution in a framework of 
geologic time. 

Another source of gifts stems from the specimens which are submitted in a 
steady stream to the Museum staff for identification. In almost every case, the 


consulting staff member is given the option of retaining selected specimens, if 
not all of them, for permanent deposit in the collection. Gifts of this kind 
are an important source of valuable material that could not otherwise be acquired 
by the Museum. 

Because the Museum's staff scientists are recognized authorities in their 
research fields, they often are invited by other institutions to study and report 
upon important collections for which such institutions have no specialists of 
their own. As a courtesy in return for the scientific assistance of the collaborating 
specialists, the owner institution routinely presents a selected set of specimens 
to the Museum for permanent deposit in its research collections. As such collections 
commonly originate from major expeditions and collecting programs, the Museum 
thereby acquires a representation of foreign as well as privately collected 
American materials which enrich the depth and bredth of its collections and enhance 
their value as research tools of worldwide application. 

Another significant way in which the Museum's collections grow is through 
the gift (or bequest) of research collections privately maintained by amateur 
collectors or by specialists working in non-museum institutions. In reciprocation 
for the assistance rendered by Museum staff and in recognition of the safety and 
security which the Museiim can provide for the collections, such donors choose to 
give or will their working collections, often representative of a life time of 
research, to the Museum. 


Although purchase is a relatively small source of additions to the collections 
of the Museum when acquisitions are viewed over all, it may be an important source 


for certain kinds of specimens. Items which have substantial intrinsic value, 
such as gems, minerals, and some fossils; or which have collector's value, such 
as seashells, butterflies or ethnological artifacts, fall into this category. 
For collections of these types purchase may be the only way to fill important 
gaps in the collections. 


Historically, one of the most important sources of new material in the 
general field of natural history has been through transfer from government agencies 
Among these are the U.S. Fish Commission (now the National Marine Fisheries 
Service), the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (now incorporated in N.O.A.A.), the 
U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the various armed 

Another form of transfer is from institutions which are no longer able to 
maintain collections which they have accumulated. Economic considerations have 
made it increasingly difficult for smaller repository institutions to survive, 
but the collections which they hold are sometimes of vital importance to Science. 
In such cases, the Museum has reluctantly but unavoidably had to take in these 
collections. The invertebrate collections from the University of Michigan 
Zoological Museum were turned over to the Museum several years ago, as was the 
entire collection from Wesleyan University. It is not unlikely that the Museum 
will be asked to assume responsibility for all, or parts, of other collections 
in the future if they are to be saved at all. Such transfers are not agreed to 
lightly, however. For example, the University of Virginia recently sought to have 
the Museum accept its excellent Seward Forest collections but the Museum did not 


Improvements in Science Technology 

Another impetus for collection growth is improvement in the quality of 
science. New and improved instrumentation continues to make new studies possible 
and new studies more often than not require additional specimens. New instruments 
such as the transmission electron microscope, the scanning electron microscope, 
and the microprobe, as well as modifications of old ones, such as phase contrast 
microscopy and Nomarski interference microscopy, have provided new and more 
informative views of many kinds of natural history objects during the past few 
decades. New techniques of preparation, such as sectioning specimens by embedding 
in epoxy resins to observe the relationships of skeletal structures to soft tissues, 
have opened up whole new vistas of study. Inevitably, such developments create 
a need for additional material to study, and this means growth of collections: 
controlled and directed growth. 

Improved methods of collecting also result in new collections. For 
example, the new technology that permitted drilling the deepest core ever made 
by man into a Pacific atoll resulted in new — and priceless — collections. So have 
refined methods and equipment for deep-sea dredging, which have enabled us to 
obtain specimens of animal life from the deepest trenches in the world ocean. 
Such collections may not be vast in volume but they represent growth nevertheless: 
controlled growth, essential growth. 

In svmmiary, increasing research requirements, the urgency of environmental 
considerations, our broadening obligations to future generations not only of 
scientists but also of the general public, and our rapidly advancing technology 
all generate new pressures for continued scientific collecting. The need to 
advance the forefront of knowledge continues, and this advance requires new 


Alternatives to Collections Growth 

There is no satisfactory alternative to collection growth. When a scientific 
collection can no longer grow, research and the knowledge which flows from it will 
slow and eventually stop. 

In the field of natural history, there is no alternative to studying actual 
specimens. Most of our collections are composed of animals and plants, no two 
of which are exactly alike. Among our goals in studying them is a thorough 
knowledge of their form and structure, and no reproduction of any kind can provide 
this. We also seek to understand variation — individual, geographic, environmental — 
and growth and development, and no reproductions can show these. When we study 
a specimen — plant, animal, fossil — we attempt to describe and depict it as fully 
as possible with the most sophisticated means available — but we still cannot 
dispose of the specimen and rely solely upon the written word and printed 
iconography; some features may be overlooked, others may not be visible with the 
instruments that we use, and additional study may become necessary in the future 
for verification, for amplification. 

Control of Acquisitions in the National Museum of Natural History 

The collections of plants, animals, fossils, rocks, and human artifacts housed 
at the National Museum of Natural History are a living body of information. They 
represent an accumulation of knowledge about the natural world which has been 
gathered by thousands of researchers over the last 150 years or so. The collections 
are in constant use by present day researchers, both from the Smithsonian and 
elsewhere, and are being selectively added to as new parts of the world are opened 
for investigation and as new habitats and organic relationships are explored. 


The National Collections are both comprehensive in their coverage and extremely- 
varied in detail, so that no single individual can reasonably judge what should be 
added or retained in such diverse collections. Therefore, over the years, the 
Museum has hired a staff of expert scientists, whose chief standing obligation 
is to maintain and improve the collections. It is necessary, in order to fulfill 
this function, that Museum scientists be very familiar with the state of knowledge 
within the subject matter area covered by the collections under their care. 

Responsibility for the care of the collections has been delegated by 
the Secretary to the Director of the Museum. In the past the Director had 
given the scientific staff of the Museum considerable freedom as to the number 
and kinds of new specimens to be added to the collections. This was both necessary 
and desirable during the early days of intensive exploration of the natural 
environment. For example, we are particularly fortunate that aggressive collectors 
were on the scene during the days of westward expansion, else we would have lost 
a great deal of knowledge about the native peoples of America. However, because 
of the great increase in the number of curators in the Museum since 1955, and 
the rapidly increasing cost of maintenance and storage of the collections, it has 
become necessary for the Museum administration to be more involved in deciding what 
can be added to the collections. Involvement of management in collections decision- 
making has also been required in the increasing number of instances in which small 
university museum collections have been discontinued and the Museum has been asked 
to accept them. 

The new policy involves both peer and administrative review of proposed new 
additions to the collections. It will always be true that the individual scientist- 
specialist will be in the best position to determine what should or should not be 
added to the collections under his care. However, it is not always the case that 


each individual scientist has the needed Museumwide perspective to determine how 
space and other resources should be allocated to meet all current needs and to 
properly plan for future needs. In recognition of this situation the Director 
has established the following set of procedures for collections management within 
the National Museum of Natural History: 

1. Each individual scientist is permitted to acquire on 
behalf of the Museum small numbers of specimens each 
year. These are ordinarily research materials gathered 
for immediate study. Some of these specimens may 
ultimately be discarded after research is completed. 
Such acquisitions are limited to less than 100 cubic 
feet per scientist per year. 

2. Committees have been established within each of the 
scientific departments to consider large acquisitions. 
Each committee reviews every proposed or possible 
acquisition over this minimum level and recommends a 
course of action to the Departmental Chairman. The 
Chairman, based upon knowledge of the space resources 
available to the Department, makes the final decision 
for small to moderate sized collections. For larger 
collections the final decision is the Director's. In 
any case, the Chairman informs the Director of all 
decisions to house additional collections. In the case 

of truly large collections , such as might become available 
from another Museum which is closing its doors, the 
Director consults with and seeks guidance from the 

Assistant Secretary for Science and the Secretary 
of the Institution. 

The collection management policy has been operational in the Department 
of Entomology for the last 4 years and in the Department of Anthropology for the 
last 2 years. It has been instituted in the remaining 5 scientific departments 
during the course of 1977 and is working very effectively. 

As long as new knowledge is obtained from nature it will be necessary to 
increase the size of the collections which document this knowledge. The purpose 
of this policy is to cause the careful review of all acquisitions so as to 
assure that poor or unneeded specimens are not accepted. At the same time the 
controls are not meant to discourage growth of collections because there are many 
areas in which they should grow to fill existing gaps. In light of the variety 
and complexity of specialties in the natural sciences there is no doubt that the 
best judgment as to what should or should not be added to the collections is 
possessed by the individual scientific curators. In light of dwindling space and 
funding resources for the storage and maintenance of these collections, it is 
both necessary and appropriate that the individual judgments of the curators be 
reviewed by peer groups and science administrators so that the available resources 
are applied to the best advantage. The simple, straightforward procedures outlined 
here take into account these realities and provide a mechanism for the orderly 
control of the collections at the National Museum of Natural History. 

Criteria for Selection, Rejection, and Disposal of Specimens 

Accessions are never accepted as a matter of routine, nor without professional 
evaluation. The decision to accept or decline material offered to the Museum is 
based upon many considerations, which differ among the various departments and 

- A-67 

among the diverse scientific fields. The chief criteria are as follows: 

1. Scientific importance, which is determined by several factors including: 

A. The specimens form the basis of published research; such as type 
specimens, voucher material supporting experimental or systematic 

B. Representation (both taxonomic, geographic and cultural) of similar 
specimens in the collection. 

C. Rarity in general; replaceability . 

D. Specimens required for studies in progress. 

2. Quality of scientific documentation. 

3. Physical condition and adequacy of preservation. 

4. Logistic considerations: problems of transport to the museum, storability. 
These criteria are not applied in any strict sequence, but are considered 

in the light of existing knowledge, the status of present collections, the nature 
of the object or objects under consideration, and all attendant circumstances. Even 
a common object may be highly desirable if it is a fine example in especially 
good condition, and an extremely rare object may be equally desirable even though 
it is in poor condition or is deficient in some other way. All factors must be 
taken into consideration and carefully balanced. The strict enforcement of 
arbitrary rules inevitably would lead to the exclusion of highly important specimens 
from the Smithsonian collections and would work to the disadvantage of science. 

In the course of using a scientific collection for research, all the 
material of a given category — perhaps large, a genus or family; perhaps small, 
only a species or subspecies — comes under detailed scrutiny, and in this process, 
any material that is defective and useless for research is detected. The scientist 
is then in a position to decide whether the interests of the collection and of 


science are best served by discarding or retaining all or some of the defective 
specimens. However, relatively few items are removed from the collections because 
of the rigorous review given to the objects before they are admitted into the 
collections in the first place. 

The formal procedure for disposal of large collections involves the 
scientific staff, the Departmental Chairman and the Director. The Chairman 
recommends to the Director that a Condemnation Committee be appointed. The 
Director then appoints a Condemnation Committee of at least three members, 
consisting of the Chairman of the Department involved and two curators who are to 
have special qualifications to make suitable recommendations for the disposal 
of such materials. This Committee examines the material concerned and submits 
a signed report. The Director then either approves or disapproves the recommendations 
of the Committee. 

Small numbers of specimens can be disposed of at the discretion of the 
curator expert in that field. 

Care of the Collections 

Approximately half of the people and funds available to the Museum's seven 
scientific departments are used for collection care. Care is provided directly 
for the specimens, and also for the data which document the specimens. The 
specimens themselves must be preserved against breakage, loss, abuse, deterioration 
and even theft. The information about each specimen must be carefully maintained 
because without the data the specimen becomes nothing more than a curiosity. 

According to their nature, specimens are stored either dry or in fluid, in 
appropriate containers housed in modular storage units. The individual specimen 
containers are filed in various ways depending upon their nature, the kind of 


organism, the expertise of the scientific staff, and the status of knowledge of 
the subject matter. The system used in any specific collection is designed for the 
most efficient retrieval of specimens for that collection. Thus the 10,000 human 
skeletons in the collections are stored in geographic and ethnic categories whereas 
the 437,000 mammal specimens are stored by animal type (Genus and species). 

Specimen documentation is an indispensable part of every collection. To 
the scientist, recorded data convey information which cannot be determined from the 
specimens themselves but which are essential to scientific studies. Collection 
managers must keep accurate records to properly organize and control the collections 
and to provide ready access to the specimens by scientists and the public, and museum 
administration needs collection documentation to assess overall collection maintenance 
and use. Recognizing the extreme value of specimen records, the Museum gives high 
priority to preparation and maintenance of adequate collection documentation. 

Priority has been placed on using Automatic Data Processing (ADP) to 
help with the largest data handling job of the Museum — the documentation of newly 
accessioned or cataloged specimens. Instead of writing labels and catalog entries 
by hand, data are first put into machine-readable form by a variety of methods, 
and then automatic typewriters or the computer are used to print as many documents 
as needed. There are several advantages to this procedure: (1) A Computer data 
bank of all new specimen data is a valuable product of the process; (2) data need 
to be typed only once, reducing the chance of error and decreasing the amount of 
work needed to produce multiple documents; (3) several ADP methods for expanding 
outlined data can be used to greatly reduce the amount of typing needed to build 
the data bank; and (4) the computer data bank can be easily updated and revised 
documents produced when additional data come to hand later. 


Some departments are using ADP to carry out a retrospective inventory of their 
more valuable collections. Automatic data expansion techniques can greatly reduce 
the amount of data recording and typing required to complete the initial canvass 
of the collection and to build the computer file. The data bank can then be sorted 
and listed in a variety of ways by the computer to help locate mis filed specimens 
and to detect errors such as mistyped catalog numbers. The data bank can also be 
used to plan reorganization of a collection, and it serves as a highly retrievable 
information source for users of the collection. 

The Museum is also exploring the use of ADP to record and control the 
movements of specimens into and out of the Museum through new accessions, the 
movements of specimens into and out of the Museum through new accessions, exchanges, 
loans, transfers, etc. 

Considerable progress has been made toward the formulation of a common 
information system for museums. The Smithsonian's ADP system, named SELGEM, has 
received wide acceptance among natural history museums and this has led to closer 
cooperation among them. The key subject of data standards is being widely 
discussed by several national organizations such as the Association of Systematics 
Collections, and it is apparent that efforts will be made to formalize some 
standards through the American National Standards Institute. Several years will 
be required before the full benefits of these efforts will be realized, however. 

Another and more legal form of documentation for the Museum's specimens is 
provided by the Office of the Registrar. This office is responsible for maintaining 
records related to the accessioning of specimens coming into the Museum, the 
documentation of legal ownership of the collections, the transfer of specimens 
between museum departments, and the loan of specimens to other museums or academic 
institutions. With the exception of some records destroyed by fire in the 1860's, 


the registrarial records of the Museum date back to 1834, Some idea of the 
magnitude of this operation may be gained from Table II, which records the specimen 
transactions of the Museum's Registrar for FY 1973. 

Within the departments or divisions, more detailed cataloging records are 
kept relating to each specimen, usually through ADP procedures. 













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In summary, the collections of the National Museum of Natural History are 
a living reservoir of past and present knowledge, and a source of new information 
for the future. The maintenance of the collections and continuing provision for 
their growth is essential if they are to remain a vital resource for many kinds 
of studies and investigations. Selection of specimens to enter the collections 
is done carefully, using the expertise of the scientific staff. 



The National Portrait Gallery's collections consist of painted and sculpted 
likenesses, as well as prints and photographs. Our principal concern is the 
significance of the subject, and our goal is to build a collection of portraits 
that is truly representatve of the rich and diverse history of this nation. 

In addition to using our collections for public display and for research 
about both the subjects and the artists of portraits, we also assure that they 
are preserved for future generations. We also provide services nationally, in 
terms of loans to exhibitions, consultation to museiims and the public, publi- 
cations based on our exhibitions and other research projects in the area of 
portraiture, and educational materials which can be used in the teaching of 
American history. We help identify the holidngs of private citizens; we 
provide reference and illustrative materials to scholars and to the media; and 
we maintain archival data on important American portraits not in our collections 
both for our own research and to facilitate the research of others. 

The exhibition policy of the National Portrait Gallery is to display 
likenesses of the "men and women who have made significant contributions to 
the history, development, and culture of the people of the United States." In 
order to fulfill this mandate in as thorough and balanced a manner as possible, 
considerably more public exhibition space than is presently available will 
inevitably be necessary. 


Even at this relatively early stage in the existence of the Gallery, more 
than fifty portraits which should be on view cannot be shown. Tnese works 
particularly must be stored in such a fashion as to be readily accessible to 
the public. To these requirements should be added the need to reser-ze a 
significant area for special temporary exhibitions consisting primarily of 
portraits borrowed from other sources. 

In the past decade, as the staff and programs of the National Portrait 
Gallery have developed, upwards of 20,000 square feet of once used space has 
been turned over to display and collections management. We now use all available 
space. The following report analyzes the growth of the National Portrait 
Gallery's collections (described in Table I) and recommends some solutions to 
their storage and management needs in the years immediately ahead. In Table I 
of the 761 St. Memin engravings acquired in 1974, 108 have been included in 
the permanent collection, 653 in the study collection. 

TABLE I. Description of Holdings 

Permanent Collection 1,181 

Study Collection 1,143 
Associative Objects/ 

Decorative Arts 155 

Patent Office Items 41 


Graphics Collection 38,261 

TOTAL 40,781 

When inventoried in 1969, the graphics file numbered 38,261, accumulated 

as follows: (Gifts of photograph collections, containing items useful for 

reference although not admissable to the permanent collection, could result in 

renewed growth.) 


TABLE II. Graphics File 

10,000 Robbins Collection (Arlington, Mass.) 

8,000 Reed Collection duplicates (Metropolitan Museum of Art) 

1,555 Library of Congress 

14,000 MHT, Division of Political History 

4,000 Harris and Ewing Studios 

706 Miscellaneous Donors 

38,261 Total 

Associative and Decorative Arts Objects Collections have recently increased 
at a faster pace as greater emphasis has been placed on acquiring memorabilia related 
to notable figures. Two-thirds of the 155 items in these collections have been added 
since January 1974. Some of these (like Sully's female model, painters' easels, etc.) 
have bulk, although most are easily stored when not exhibited. The few pieces of 
furniture acquired are displayed in Gallery areas, and the forty-one patent office 
views (two-thirds of which are prints, the balance photographs) are also compactly 

Tables III-V indicate our permanent and study collection holdings and their 
growth according to media. Painting, sculpture and drawing collections have grown 
at a steady rate since 1966, whereas holdings in graphics and photographs have 
dramatically increased only in the past two years. (For the purpose of 
simplification, the storage needs of paintings, drawings, and sculpture, of concern 
primarily to the Registrar, will hereafter be referred to as General Storage.) 
Growth by media during the past two years is contrasted with that of the previous 

TABLE III. Current Permanent and Study Collections by Mediiom 

Paintings 535 

Sculpture 190 

Drawings 215 

Prints 1,243 

Photographs 141 

Total 2,324 


TABLE IV. Average Annual Additions by Medium, 1966-1976 

Permanent Study local 

9 41 

2 17 

2 17 

20 38 

2 3 

























35 116 

^Excluding the St. Memins . With them the chart would read; 

Graphics 29. .84 113 

Total 92 99 191 

TABLE V. Average Annual Additions by Medium 7/1975-7/1977 

1 19 

2 14 
36 100 

32 117 

71 262 

*(1976-1977 only, since curator hired after FY-76) 

Note: During the past year 37 associative objects and 41 patent office 
items were added. 

Growth Projection 

Projections must take into account the pending acquisition of three special 
collections, especially the 1,040 original portraits for Time Magazine covers since 
1957, to be donated this fall. Most of these portraits are paintings, many are large, 
and the total collection in effect will more than double our requirement for General 
Storage. ( Time will subsequently contribute fifty original cover portraits annually.) 
A second collection consists of twenty-five Jo Davidson busts of 20th century Americans. 
This single gift will increase our holdings of sculpture by thirteen percent. 

A- 78 

Finally, we expect to acquire a collection of 350 Auguste Edouart silhouettes. 
Combining these special gifts with our normal acquisitions (estimated at 350 items, 
including a small group of watercolors by James Barton Longacre and related 
associative materials) , holdings will increase by approximately seventy-one 
percent during the next twelve months, reaching over 4,300 items by mid-1978 
(excluding the Graphics Collection) . 

Within the next five to fifteen years the Gallery's collections, expanding 
at normal rates of the past few years, will require considerably more space than is 
expected to be available for display and storage. This is true despite efficiencies 
which will be made in our use of existing space and without considering the impact of 
special collections which might be given or purchased containing large numbers 
of objects impossible now to predict. All that can be predicted is that opportunities 
to acquire such collections will be present themselves as they have in the past, and that 
it will be increasingly necessary to provide space for new and existing holdings. 
Subsequent study should be given to options available over this longer term toward 
meeting the space requirements of the National Portrait Gallery not met within its 
current allotment of the building. 

TABLE VI. Hypothetical Distribution of Time Collection by Medium 
and Space Requirement 






Sq. Ft. 

Cu. Ft. 





















2,126 max 

417 min 


The Edouart, Davidson and Longacre collections will be displayed in 
three galleries of approximately 3840 cubic feet each. Approximately twelve 
of the Davidson busts will have to be stored, however, (24 cubic feet) and 
study collection items now stored in Room 112 will be displaced, requiring an 
additional 1200 cubic feet of general storage elsewhere. (A 5'x4' painting 
would require 20 sq. feet of screen storage, allowing 1 foot clearance. If stored 
in a bin, 1/2' clearance would be required, hence the 2:1 ratio of square feet to 
cubic feet for framed objects used in the charts. Wall storage would be probably 
most efficient, if the walls were available.) 



Unlike the rest of our museums, the Zoo displays, studies, and interprets 
live specimens.* The "aliveness" of the objects gives them added appeal with the 
public, and at the same time creates a set of management constraints unlike those 
of our other museums. 

Samuel Pierpont Langley, third Secretary of the Smithsonian, established the 
National Zoological Park- Determined to save the American bison from extinction 
when this species was endangered, he interested Congress in providing a site 
where these animals and others of equal importance could be protected and displayed 
in natural surroundings to visitors. A bill was passed in 1889 providing funds 
for purchase of the land and tract in Rock Creek Valley which was acquired the 
following year. Washington's Rock Creek Park was not in existence when the 
Smithsonian established the Zoo at its present location. Among the animals first 
shown in the Zoo were a herd of six bison. 

Under plans laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted, the renowned landscape 
architect, the National Zoological Park was built with an eye to future development, 
A collection of live animals that had been kept near the Smithsonian Building was 
transferred to the new buildings and enclosures and other animals were added by 
gift, exchange, and purchase. By 1926 the collection numbered 1,700 and in that 
year the figure was nearly doubled by the addition of animals brought back by the 

* The Museum of Natural History does maintain a popular live insect exhibit 
in its building. 


Smithsonian-Chrysler African Expedition headed by Dr. William M. Mann, then 
director of the National Zoological Park. This was the largest collection of 
animals ever imported for the Zoo at one time. It included several kinds of 
monkeys, five leopards, 35 antelope, and many other rare mammals, reptiles and 
birds. In 1937 the National Geographic-Smithsonian Expedition brought back 879 
specimens from the East Indies, and a few years later the Smithsonian-Firestone 
Expedition obtained many rare and interesting animals from Liberia. Today the 
collection contains about 2,000 animals, or about 550 species. Included are some 
of the rarest animals in the world: Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing, the giant pandas 
from the People's Republic of China; the kiwis, flightless birds from New Zealand, 
and Golden-Lion Tamarins from Brazil. 

The population and diversity of the collection have fluctuated over time 
according to evolving requirements for exhibition, education and research programs. 
This fluctuation will continue, but as regards collections policies and management, 
the Zoo's objectives are in a state of metamorphosis — from cages for containment 
of the unusual into open areas for display of natural relationships; from a 
consumer of animals taken from the wild, into a conservator and producer of 
animals to relieve the pressure on wild populations. The Zoo has gradually 
changed its old collections philosophy; i.e., large collections and maintenance 
of a sort of "postage stamp" collection. Large collections and the traditional 
taxonomic scheme no longer fit today's need, and this philosophy is being replaced 
with one which is more effective and more closely in tune with the changes taking 
place in the natural world. The diminishment of wild areas and populations 
increases the obligations of the Zoo to work with other similar organizations, 
and to keep the public in touch with these changes. 


The recent acquisition of the property at Front Royal, Virginia, and the 
establishment of the Conservation and Research Center will allow the Zoo to meet 
its future obligations and continue to refine its collections, philosophies, and 
operations. The Institution has no plans to convert Front Royal into a park 
complete with monorail, and intends to keep public viewing to a specific area. 
Rather, as the property is developed, activities will be concentrated on (1) 
producing animals for other zoos to relieve pressure on wild populations and (2) 
research on animal behavior, management and health. 

All animal transactions of the Zoo are approved or disapproved by the director, 
after guidance and review provided by his Animal Planning Board. The Board is 
composed of representatives of the Front Royal Center, the Zoo's Office of Animal 
Management, Office of Zoological Research and Office of Animal Health. Various 
criteria are used by the director and the Animal Planning Board for selection of 
animals to be added to the collection. In a general fashion, consideration is 
given first to the educational and research value, followed by an evaluation of 
the endangered and threatened status, the presence of necessary husbandry skills, 
breeding potential, and available space. 

For an item for potential exhibit, judgments are made which are in keeping 
with the new and evolving exhibition philosophy; i.e., will the animal help to 
demonstrate key biological concepts such as natural selection; will it facilitate 
better public appreciation of animal behavior patterns, special morphological 
adaptations, convergent evolution, zoo geographic history, adaptive radiation, 
ecological interactions? As far as research programs are concerned, judgments 
are made regarding potential contributions to what is known about exotic animal 
health, pathology, management, reproduction and behavior, under captive conditions. 


There have been only a few cases where extraordinary animals, not planned 
for, became available and required acceptance. This will probably be true also 
in the future. It will not happen often, but when such incidents occur they wii: 
be accommodated. 



Existing Collection Policy Statements 
of the Institution and Its Bureaus 


Smithsonian Institution Policy on Museum Acquisitions 
February 23, 1974 

The operation of an international black market in art, antiquities, national 
treasures, natural specimens and ethnographic material has resulted in the irrepar- 
able loss to science and humanity of archeological remains, and the despoliation of 
monuments and museums. The Institution, by these rules, disassociates itself 
completely from such illicit trafficking. Further, the Institution undertakes to 
cooperate fully with foreign countries in their endeavors to prevent this illicit 
traffic. At the same time, the Institution recognizes that the free exchange of 
information and artifacts promotes and enhances international comprehension and 
goodwill. The legitimate international transfer of natural and cultural material 
should be facilitated by all available means, including loans and sales, and the 
Institution should encourage such transfers in the same manner as it now fosters 
international exchanges between museums. 

The documentary value of a museum collection is the principal criterion of its 
excellence, and the public record should therefore be of the highest order or 
accuracy and completeness. To this end, each object acquired should have a provenance 
as completely documented as possible. Objects of incomplete provenance should be 
acquired only when they are of exceptional rarity, when it is reasonably certain 
that their origin, context and history can be established through scholarly research, 
and when there is no doubt that the object may have been stolen. An inadequate 
provenance generally gives rise to doubt as to the licit quality of an object. 
Each provenance should be made public unless extraordinary circumstances are present. 


In consideration of the above policy, the Regents of the Smithsonian Institu- 
tion adopt the rules set forth below for the acquisition of art, antiquities and 
other objects. Curators and those empowered to make acquisitions shall be respon- 
sible for the application of the rules. Donors, dealers, and correspondents will 
be notified of this policy. 

1. Each curator or officer of the Institution (hereafter: curator), prior to 
authorizing the acquisition of an object, whether by purchase, transfer, gift 
or bequest, has the responsibility, in good faith, to ascertain, from the 
circumstances surrounding the transaction, or his knowledge of the object's 
provenance, that the object in question was not stolen and is not illegally 
present in the United States. If the object originated within the United 
States, the curator should ascertain that it was not illegally or unscientific- 
ally excavated. 

2. Each curator also has the responsibility to ascertain that any proposed 
new acquisition was not illegally removed from its country of origin after the 
date of adoption of this policy. 

3. (a) In cases of doubt, the curator should consult widely within the 
Institution, particularly with those scientists or curators whose interests 
would be affected by acquisition of the object, and with the General Counsel. 
Where helpful, a special panel should be created to help pass on the questions 

(b) In the case of a substantial proposed acquisition whose acceptability 
is in question, the Institution will contact the competent authorities or 
corresponding national museums of the probable countries of origin in order to 
determine whether the latter can advise the Institution as to the status of 
the object. If any such object can be demonstrated to form part of the 
national patrimony of another country, the Institution will take reasonable 
efforts to effect the object's return. 

4. (a) The policy set forth here shall be taken into account in determining 
whether to accept loans for display or other purposes. 

(b) The Institution will not hereafter undertake to identify or authen- 
ticate objects which do not meet the above criteria. 

5. Each curator should actively pursue a policy of publication of new acquisi- 
tions in scholarly journals or otherwise and should not unreasonably delay 
such publication. The provenance of acquired objects shall be made public, 
unless the General Counsel finds that there are extraordinary circumstances 
present in a particular case. 


Memorandum from S. Dillon Ripley to NCFA and NPG 
May 22, 1970 

At its meeting yesterday the Board of Regents adopted the following Reso- 
lution, which will henceforth govern the sale or exchange of works of art in the 
National Portrait Gallery and the National Collection of Fine Arts: 

Resolved that no object of art in the permanent collection of the Na- 
tional Portrait Gallery or the National Collection of Fine Arts valued at 
more than $1,000 shall be exchanged or sold without prior approval of the 
museum Director, the museum's Commission, the Smithsonian's Office of 
General Counsel, and of the Secretary; 

that no object of art in the permanent collection of the National Por- 
trait Gallery or the National Collection of Fine Arts valued at more than 
$50,000 shall be exchanged or sold without prior approval of the museum 
Director, the museum's Commission, the Smithsonian's Office of General 
Counsel, the Secretary, and the Board of Regents; 

that the exchange or sale of any object of art in the National Portrait 
Gallery and the National Collection of Fine Arts shall be reported to the 
Board of Regents by the Secretary; 

and that the proceeds from any such sale shall be used solely for the 
acquisition of works of art for the museum from which it came. 

You will note that all exchanges and sales, regardless of the monetary value, 
are to be reported by me to the Board of Regents; I will expect to receive such 
reports from you at least once each year. 

I believe that as a matter of course you should secure at least one profes- 
sional, independent appraisal of any work of art you propose to sell or exchange 
that is likely to be worth more than $1,000; in the case of works that are likely 
to be worth as much as $50,000, I believe that two such appraisals would be in 
order. Presumably your respective Commissions will also have views on this ques- 



Undated. (1970?) 

The Museum's Acquisition Committee, consisting of the Director, Curator of 
Collections and members of the curatorial staff, will meet once a month (following 
the first general staff meeting of the month) to review objects that have been 
offered to the Museum. The Director may authorize the modification of this 
procedure in the case of acceptance of gifts where a tentative approval is required 
before the committee can meet. 

The curator concerned will make a formal recommendation and justification to 
the Committee, indicating any restrictions attached to the gift. The Committee 
will either accept or reject the recommendation of the curator and give proper 
justification for the same. 

Objects that are rejected for the Collection may be accepted as study material. 
for use (such as to decorate offices), or for the Museum's annual auction of 
donated objects, provided that the donor is informed and agrees. 

Gifts with severe restrictions or those that do not relate specifically to 
the interests of the Museum, will generally not be accepted. 

When the Museum has funds to purchase objects, expenditures beyond a certain 
amount will require the approval of the Museum's Advisory Board. 


1. A curator will recommend the exchange or sale of a work of art to the 
Museum's Acquisition Committee. (This committee consists of the Director of the 
Museum, the Curator of Collections, and members of the curatorial staff.) 


2. The Museum will ascertain if there is a legal or moral restriction 
against disposal and will obtain two outside appraisals on items of over $1,000. 

3. If there are no restrictions against disposal, the Acquisitions Committee 
will recommend the exchange or sale to the Museum's Advisory Board. 

4. Members of the Executive Committee of the Board will be invited to view 
the object in question. 

5. The Executive Committee will ask the Board to recommend the exchange or 
sale. If the work of art is valued at more than $1,000, then approval by the 
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, the General Counsel, and the Assistant 
Secretary for History and Art is required. 

6. If the work of art is valued at over $50,000, then approval of the 
Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution is required. 

7. The exchange or sale of any work of art will be reported to the Board 
of Regents by the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. 

8. Prior to the sale, written notice will be sent to interested museums, 
collectors, and the press. 

9. The objects will be sold at public auction or to the highest bidder if 
not accepted by an auction house. 

10. Funds acquired from the sale will be used solely for acquisitions. New 
acquisitions from these funds will bear the name of the original donor. Objects 
received in exchange will also bear the name of the original donor. 



The Freer Gallery of Art has not prepared a separate 
document to convey its acquisition policies. However, 
details governing Freer acquisition and disposition 
policies are carefully spelled out in Material Papers 
Relating to the Freer Gift and Bequest. 

The guiding principles and specific administrative procedures governing the 
acquisition's policy of the Freer Gallery of Art were first formulated by Charles 
Lang Freer. Although those procedures appear in Mr. Freer 's Will, the most 
detailed statement appears in a letter from Mr. Freer, dated June 14, 1919, and 
addressed to John E. Lodge, first Director of the Gallery. 

"In order that occasionally, in the years to come, important objects of a 
high standard of aesthetic quality and excellence, related to the collection as 
it now exists, may be added thereto, I have left in my will a bequest the income 
of which is to be expended for such purpose by the Regents of the Smithsonian 
Institution, providing that the object or objects under consideration are ap- 
proved by the majority of the members of a committee composed of the Secretary of 
the Smithsonian, the National Fine Arts Commission, the Keeper of the Freer 
Collection, and during their lifetimes. Miss Rhoades, Mrs. Eugene Meyer, Jr., and 
Mrs. H.O. Havemeyer. This arrangement will, I believe, protect the collection 
from undesirable additions, and at the same time allow it in the future to 
expand by the acquisition of specimens of the highest quality. 

"I am forwarding a copy of this letter to Dr. Charles D. Walcott, Secretary 
of the Smithsonian Institution, for the consideration of the Regents of that 
Institution and himself." 

Dr. Walcott wrote to John E. Lodge on December 30, 1920, as follows: 

(2) That insofar as may be compatible with the provisions in Mr. Freer 's 
will, no object or objects of any kind shall be purchased for or put 

in the building or court of the Freer Gallery of Art without consul- 
tation with and approval of the Curator. 

(3) Under paragraph four of the First Codicil to the Last Will and 
Testament of Charles L. Freer, the Curator and those empowered 

as provided in said paragraph to recommend the purchase of works of 
art for the Freer Gallery of Art, shall consider and recommend to 
the Secretary whether the opportunity to make such purchases exists. 


Throughout the years, the Freer Gallery has followed the regulations described 
above. Mrs. Eugene Meyer, Jr., the last of the people specifically named in Mr. 
Freer 's Will, died in 1970. After her death, approval for the purchase of objects 
by the Freer has been obtained from the Secretary of the Smithsonian and the Fine 
Arts National Commission. 

The Freer Gallery of Art's policy on the disposition of objects in the 
collection is also carefully spelled out by Mr. Freer in his Deed of Gift, where 
he states that once his collection had been delivered to the Smithsonian 
Institution, no objects should ever be deducted from it. In other words, the 
Gallery is expressly forbidden to dispose of any object, once it has become part 
of the collection. 

There is another stipulation made by Mr. Freer in this Deed of Gift. He 
states that no other object of any kind shall ever be exhibited in the building 
in connection with those given by him, nor should those objects be removed at any 
time except when necessary for the purpose of making repairs or rennovations in 
the building. 

The Freer Gallery of Art has always placed great emphasis on acquisitions. 
However, the acquisition's policy is a highly selective one. In the half century 
since the Gallery opened to the public, approximately 2,000 Oriental artifacts 
have been added to the 9,500 objects that constituted the original Freer bequest. 
The relatively small number of acquisitions reflects the Gallery's concentration 
on quality rather than quantity. It is not surprising then, that specialists in 
Oriental art frequently refer to artifacts of the finest type as being of "Freer 
quality." At the same time, space limitations and financial restrictions also 
have been determining factors. 

In decisions relating to new acquisitions, the foremost criteria are quality 
and an overall concern for expanding or complementing specific areas of the 
collection. To ensure that the acquisition's policy would be as successful as 
possible, the Freer Gallery assembled a small but highly specialized staff, who 
had expertise in the areas of Oriental art history and technical conservation. 
Objects being considered for acquisition are jointly studied by the curatorial 
staff and then subjected to any technical tests that might help to determine 
questions of composition, fabrication and repair. The opinions of the art 
historians can therby be supplemented by the technical findings of the conservation 
staff. These procedures have helped to maintain the quality of acquisitions, and 
the Freer Gallery has also become an internationally recognized center for art 
historical and technical research in those areas encompassed by the collection. 

Together with art historical and technical research, scholarly publications 
have also played an important role in the Gallery's acquisition's policy. The 
same specialists who have been involved in decisions relating to acquisitions 
have prepared publications in which the artifacts are discussed and thereby made 
available to students, scholars and the general public. 


The policies governing acquisition and disposition of museum objects by HMSG 
are not set forth in a separate docxment hut are incorporated in the bylaws 
of the trustees and in resolutions adopted by the Board. The pertinent 
sections of the bylaws are reproduced below along with the complete texts of 
the resolutions. 

(As amended to and including October 14, 1976) 


By an act of the Congress of the United States entitled "An Act to provide 
for the establishment of the Joseph H. Hirshhom Museum and Sculpture Garden," 
approved November 7, 1966, "there is established in the Smithsonian Institution a 
Board of Trustees to be known as the Trustees of the Joseph H. Hirshhom Museum 
and Sculpture Garden." 


Functions, Powers and Duties 

Section 1. The primary functions of the Board shall be as set forth in 
Section 3(a) of the Act: to provide advice and assistance to the Board of 
Regents of the Smithsonian Institution on all matters relating to the administration, 
operation, maintenance, and preservation of the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Museum and 
Sculpture Garden. The Board shall have the sole authority (i) to purchase or 
otherwise acquire (whether by gift, exchange, or other means) works or art for 
the Joseph H. Hirshhom Museum and Sculpture Garden, (ii) to loan, exchange, 
sell, or otherwise dispose of said works of art, and (iii) to determine policy as 
to the method of display of the works of art contained in said museum and sculp- 
ture garden. 

Section 2. A report of the Board for each year shall be submitted with the 
report of the Secretary of the Institution at the Annual Meeting of the Board of 
Regents in January, and shall be printed in the annual report of the Board to 




Section 3c. The Committee on Collections 

In accordance with such policies as from time to time may be adopted by 
the Board, the Committee on Collections shall consider the acquisition 
of works of art for the collections, and the disposition of works of 
art by sale, gift, exchange or otherwise, and make recommendations 
thereon to the Board. The Board shall present a report of such acqui- 
sitions and dispositions to the Board of Regents at the regular annual 
meeting of the Regents in January each year. 


RESOLVED that the Board of Trustees of the Joseph H. Hirshhom Museum and 
Sculpture Garden, which Board is authorized and empowered to purchase or other- 
wise acquire works of art for the Joseph H. Hirshhom Museum and Sculpture Garden, 
does hereby delegate to the Director of the Museum the authority to negotiate and 
conclude on behalf of the Board the purchase of such works of art as he shall 
determine to be appropriate for the Museum's permanent collection; provided, 
however, that: 

(a) No individual purchase shall be so concluded by the Director 
at a price in excess of $10,000; and 

(b) The aggregate price of all purchases so concluded by the Director 
during any fiscal year shall not exceed (1) in the case of works of art 
purchased with the acquisition of funds appropriated by the Congress to 
the Museum for such fiscal year, one third of the amount of such funds, 
and (2) in the case of works of art purchased with the Museum's private 
funds, the sum of $20,000; and be it further 

RESOLVED, that the Director of the Museum: 

(a) Shall, not less than thirty days after concluding the purchase of 
any work of art pursuant to the foregoing delegation, notify each 
member of the Board in writing of the details of such transaction, 
including in each case the name of the artist, a full description of 
the work, the name of the vendor and the purchase price paid by the 
museum; and 


(b) Shall submit to the Board at each of its meetings a list of all works 
of art so purchased since the immediately preceding meeting of the 
Board, including in each case the name of the artist, a full descrip- 
tion of the work, the name of the vendor and the purchase price paid by 
the museum. 



Sta.tement of policy - January 22, 1974 

The National Air and Space Museum is keenly aware of the fact that the large 
size of today's flying machines, coupled with an ever-accelerating pace of 
aerospace technology, results in tremendous pressure on curators to increase the 
size of their collections. At the same time, however, the available storage 
space is not increasing at the same pace, and, therefore, increasing selectivity 
must be exercised in acquiring new objects. Furthermore, each addition to the 
collection should be balanced, wherever possible, by an equivalent deletion or 
loan to prevent overflowing our warehouses. 

The responsibility for acquiring major new artifacts lies with the Museum 
Director. Curators, through their Assistant Directors, should recommend the 
acquisition only of those objects which have been extensively researched and 
determined to be of great historical or technical significance. Highest prior- 
ity should be given those artifacts required for a planned exhibit. 



statement of policy - December 1970 

For some years, the collections of the National Collection of Pine Arts have 
been divided into three categories: the Permanent Collection; the Smithsonian 
Lending Collection; the Smithsonian Art Study Collection. The policy governing 
these three collections was last revised in October 1965. At the May 1970 
Commission meeting, the Director pointed out that the division had become arbi- 
tary and ultimately meaningless and recommended that the collection be considered 
as one body of works which served various purposes. On the acquiescence of the 
Commissioners, the statement of policy was prepared to supercede the 
previously published statement (Collection Policies of the National Collection of 
Fine Arts with Special Reference to the Smithsonian Art Lending and Study Collec- 
tions, revised October 1965). 

Once any work enters the collection of the National Collection of Fine Arts 
it is entitled to the same degree of care in handling and maintenance as every 
other. Some works, however, because of their condition, their particular quality 
or their importance to the collection must be given special safeguards. For this 
reason, works will be listed in three categories: those which can never be lent 
(except under the most exceptional circumstances) ; those which can be lent to 
other museiims affording conditions comparable to our own; and those available for 
loan to executive and cabinet offices under other than museum conditions. As 
time goes on, works will doubtless be reclassified in order to assure their 
preservation or to accord with new uses of the collection. 

By its very nature, the collection of the National Collection of Fine Arts 
serves several functions. The breadth of its holdings ranging from lesser known 
as well as "popular" painters to well remembered masters, is one of its particular 
virtues and should be maintained. While the collection should acquire works on 
the basis of quality, care must be taken that quality be judged within the 
category or work itself, and not simply on the basis of current taste or transient 
interest. Within necessary limits of space and possibilities of care, the 
collection should aim to be inclusive rather than only representative. Otherwise 
its usefulness for future scholars will be lessened. 

All of these functions should be borne in mind when acquiring works for the 
collection, and works in all categories should be brought to the attention of 
the Art Commission in their review of accessions. 



The pertinent sections of NMHT' s collection policy are reproduced 

April 5, 1973 

The musexom's first responsibility is to the collection. Acquisition, 
preservation, and interpretation of the collections are the joint responsibility 
of the Director and the professional staff. Policy regarding purpose and direction 
of collecting activity shall be flexible. The collections exist for the public's 
benefit and should be made as accessible as is consistent with the safety of the 

I. General Criteria for the Collections 

A. The object shall possess potential for research and scholarship, 
now or in the future. And/or 

B. The object shall be useful for exhibition purposes, now or in 
the future. And/or 

C. In the most general sense, the object or collection shall be 
significant in itself so that it merits inclusion. Technological, 
social and historical factors should be weighed. Association, 
aesthetic merit, rarity, and status in its own particular category 
should be considered. 

II. The Collections Committee 

A. The Collections Committee shall consist of between five and seven 
members who shall be appointed from the curatorial and technical 
staff by the Director. The Registrar shall be a permanent member 
of the Committee. 

4. The Collections Committee shall meet at least once a month 
and may meet at any time action is required. 

5. A quorum shall consist of three members. If a quorxim is not 
available in an emergency situation, the Chairman or Vice-chairman 
may appoint alternate members. All actions, except de-accessioning, 
shall be by majority vote. Minority opinions may be included 

in any recommendations to the Director. 

The Collections Committee shall review its policy and procedure at 
least every three years or upon request of the Director. 


C. Powers 

1. The Collections Committee will consider matters under its 
jurisdiction, make decisions and recommend specific action to 
the Director. 

2. The following areas relating to the collections will be within 
the Collections Committee's jurisdication: 

a. Gifts, bequests, purchases 

b. De-accessioning 

c . Loans to the museum 

d. Loans from the museum 

e. Storage of the collections 

f. Preservation and Conservation 

g. The NMHT Registrar's Office policies and procedures 

h. Policy and planning for collections-related publications 
i. Sale of reproductions and collection-related items in the 
museum shops. 

Ill . Procedures 

A. Gifts or bequests 

1. Accepting gifts or bequests will be left to the discretion 
of the curator involved except: 

a. When large items are offered; defined as occupying a 
space (singly or grouped) exceeding 10 cubic feet. 

b. When an extensive collection is offered; defined as 
exceeding 20 items. 

c. When a specimen offered represents a new area of 
collecting for the museum or for a division. 

d. When packing, transportation or storage costs exceed 

The Collections Committee shall make recommendations to 

the Director in the cases of gifts or bequests of large items, 

extensive collections or new areas of collecting. 

a. The curator involved shall send the Collections Committee 
a written request and justification, with a copy to the 

b. The Collections Committee promptly shall hold a hearing 
on the matter and make a recommendation to the Director. 
The curator involved or his representative shall be present 
at this hearing to explain his position. 


c. The curator involved and/or the Collections Coiranittee 
may secure outside opinions. 

d. Upon receiving the Collections Committee's recommendation, 
the Director shall make a prompt decision on the matter. 

e. Accession papers (or a preliminary notice of accession) 
for all acquisitions shall be filed with the Registrar 
within ten days after the date of acquisition. 

3. The acceptance of all gifts and bequests shall be unrestricted. 
No commitment shall be made as to exhibition, attribution, or 
placement of the gift. No guarantee shall be made that the gift 
or bequest be retained by the museum in perpetuity. There shall 
be no exceptions to this policy unless any such restrictions or 
special provisions are approved in writing by the Collections 
Committee and the Director and a statement of approval filed with 
the Registrar. 

4. Accession papers (or preliminary notice of accession) for all 
acquisitions shall be filed with the Registrar within ten working 
days following receipt of the acquisitions. 

5. All gifts and bequests shall be acknowledged by a certificate of 
appreciation. Letters of acknowledgement shall accompany the 


1. Purchases from private funds under the curator's control, and 
purchases made with money given by donors to accomplish a specific 
purpose, will be left to the discretion of the curator. However, 
the provisions of III A la-d must be complied with. 

2. Funds specifically allocated to the museum for the purchase of 
objects plus other monies that may become available for purchases 
shall be retained in the Director's Office. The Director's Office 
shall advise the Collections Committee as to the approximate 
amount available for purchases in each quarter of the fiscal year. 

3. Proposals for purchases may be submitted by the curators to the 
Collections Committee at any time. Priorities shall be assigned 
on a continuing basis. The Collections Committee shall advise the 
Director's Office on the amount of purchase money that should be 
kept available for emergency purchases. The Collections Committee 
shall advise the Director's Office in the making of specific 
purchase commitments. The ultimate decisions as to regular 
purchases, extent of reserves, and emergency purchases will be 
made by the Office of the Director. 

4. The procedures for considering and recommending purchases shall be 
the same as set forth in III A 2a-d above. 



5. The Collections Committee shall make a full report to the 
Director's Office on January 15 and July 15 stating the 
status and disposition of all request purchases for the 
preceding six-month period. 

6. In addition to the general criteria cited in I A-C above, the 
following factors shall be considered by the Collections Committee 
and the Director: 

a. Is the piece to be purchased necessary for exhibition 
or for scholarship? 

b. Will the piece to be acquired have importance within the 
context of the museum's collection? 

c. Must the piece be purchased? Have attempts been made to 
secure it as a gift? 

d. Is the price fair? 

e. Is the object in appropriate condition? Has it been 
carefully examined? Have factors of restoration been 

f. Does the purchase appear merited when compared to other 

g. Each division will receive fair consideration for 
justified purchases, but there will be no requirement 
to allocate funds as to any pre-determined formula. 

C. De-accessioning. This includes condemnation for the purpose of 
the destruction of specimens or de-accessioning for the purpose of 
exchanging or otherwise disposing of duplicates or specimens not wanted 
in the collections. Any such disposal "requires particularly rigid 
examination" (quoted from "Professional Practices in Art Museums," 
Museum News , October 1972). 

1. Procedures set forth in III A2a-d shall be followed. In 
addition the curator requesting a de-accessioning action shall 
provide a list of the items to be de-accessioned to the curatorial 
staff at least two weeks prior to the date when the Collections 
Committee shall consider the request for de-accessioning. 

2. The vote of the members of the Collections Committee present at 
the meeting must be unanimous in order to recommend condemnation. 

3. The written recommendation to the Director shall contain an 
explanation and justification. This statement shall be filed with 
the Registrar if condemnation is ordered. 

D. Loans to the museum. The general policy shall be to accept as loans 
only items needed for exhibit and study. In the past, the museum has 
been taken advantage of as a place for free storage, to display items 
that are for sale, or to give a pedigree to items. 


1. All proposed loans, except for special exhibitions, shall be 
presented to the Collections Committee. The procedure set forth 
in III A 2a-d shall be followed. 

2. All loans to the museum made after January 1, 1973, shall be for a 
specific minimum period of time (usually 3 years) . 

E. In loans from the museum the safety of the object in packing, 

transportation, and loan exhibition shall be the prime consideration. 

1. Loan of objects or collections of minor importance shall be 
arranged by the curator. 

2. Loans of important objects or collections shall be authorized 
according to the procedures set forth in III A 2a-d. 

3. Requests for all loans from other bureaus of the Smithsonian shall 
be in writing and routed through the Office of the Director. Upon 
receipt of such requests, the curator shall follow the same 
procedure in securing authorization as in loans to outside 

4. Loans, in and out, of objects evaluated at $5000 or more must be 
reviewed by the Collections Committee. 



statement on control of acquisitions - July 27, 1977 

The collections of plants, animals, fossils, rocks, and human artifacts 
housed at the National Museum of Natural History are a living body of information. 
They represent an accumulation of knowledge about the natural world which has 
been gathered by thousands of researchers over the last 150 years or so. The 
collections are in constant use by present day researchers, both from the 
Smithsonian and elsewhere, and are being selectively added to as new parts of the 
world are opened for investigation and as new habitats and organic relationships 
are explored. The National Collections are both comprehensive in their coverage 
and extremely varied in detail, so that no signle individual can reasonably judge 
what should be added or retained in such diverse collections. Therefore, over 
the years, the Museum has hired a staff of expert scientists, whose chief standing 
obligation is to maintain and improve the collections. It is necessary, in order 
to fulfill this function, that Museum scientists be very familiar with the state 
of knowledge within the subject matter area covered by the collections under 
their care. 

Responsibility for the care of the collections has been delegated by the 
Secretary to the Director of the Museum. In the past the Director had given the 
scientific staff of the Museum considerable freedom as to the number and kinds of 
new specimens to be added to the collections. This was both necessary and desirable 
during the early days of intensive exploration of the natural environment. For 
example, we are particularly fortunate that aggressive collectors were on the 
scene during the days of westward expansion, else we would have lost a great deal 
of knowledge about the native peoples of America. However, because of the great 
increase in the number of curators in the Museum since 1955, and the rapidly 
increasing cost of maintenance and storage of the collections, it has become 
necessary for the Museiom administration to be more involved in deciding what can 
be added to the collections. Involvement of management in collections decision- 
making has also been required in the increasing number of instances in which 
small university museum collections have been discontinued and the Museum has 
been asked to accept them. 

The new policy involves both peer and administrative review of proposed new 
additions to the collections. It will always be true that the individual 
scientist-specialist will be in the best position to determine what should or 
should not be added to the collections in his care. However, it is not always 
the case that each individual scientists has the needed Museum-wide perspective 
to determine how space and other resources should be allocated to meet all current 
needs and to properly plan for future needs. In recognition of this situation 
the Director has established the following set of procedures for collections 
management within the National Musem of Natural History: 


1. Each individual scientist is permitted to acquire on behalf of the 
Museum small numbers of specimens each year. These are ordinarily 
research materials gathered for immediate study. Some of these specimens 
may ultimately be discarded after research is completed. Such 
acquisitions are limited to less than 100 cubic feet per scientist per 

2. Committees have been established within each of the scientific de- 
partments to consider large acquisitions. Each committee reviews every 
proposed or possible acquisition over this minimum level and recommends 
a course of action to the Departmental Chairman. The Chairman, based 
upon knowledge of the space resources available to the Department, 
makes the final decision for small to moderate sized collections. For 
larger collections the final decision is the Director's. In any case 
the Chairman informs the Director of all decisions to house additional 
collections. In the case of truly large collections, such as might 
become available from another Museum which is closing its doors, the 
Director consults with and seeks guidance from the Assistant Secretary 
for Sceince and the Secretary of the Institution. 

The collection management policy has been operational in the Department of 
Entomology for the last 4 years and in the Department of Anthropology for the 
last 2 years. It has been instituted in the remaining 5 scientific departments 
during the course of 1977 and is working very effectively. 

As long as new knowledge is obtained from nature it will be necessary to 
increase the size of the collections which document this knowledge. The purpose 
of this policy is to cause the careful review of all acquisitions so as to assure 
that poor or unneeded specimens are not accepted. At the same time the controls 
are not meant to discourage growth of collections because there are many areas in 
which they should grow to fill existing gaps. In light of the variety and complexity 
of specialities in the natural sciences there is no doubt that the best judgement 
as to what should or should not be added to the collections is possessed by the 
individual scientific curators. In light of dwindling space and funding resources 
for the storage and maintenance of these collections, it is both necessary and 
appropriate that the individual judgements of the curators be reviewed by peer 
groups and science administrators so that the available resources are applied to 
the best advantage. The simple, straightforward procedures outlined here take 
into account these realities and provide a mechanism for the orderly control of 
the collections at the National Museiim of Natural History. 



The National Portrait Gallery has not prepared a separate 
document to convey its acquisition policies. However, 
details governing NPG acquisition and disposition policies 
are given below. 

Public Law 97-443 (1962) stipulates that the National Portrait Gallery: 

shall function as a free public museum for the exhibition and study of 
portraiture and statuary depicting men and women who have made significant 
contributions to the history, development and culture of the people of the 
United States and of the artists who created such portraiture and statuary. 

As amended in 1976, the Act defines portraiture as: 

portraits and reproductions thereof made by any means or process, whether 
invented or developed heretofore or hereafter. 

The Act enables the Board of Regents to: 

(1) purchase, accept, borrow, or otherwise acquire portraiture, statuary, 
and other items for preservation, exhibition, or study. The Board may 
acquire any such item on the basis of its general historical interest, its 
artistic merit, or the historical significance of the individual to which it 
relates, or any combination of any such factors. The Board may acquire 
period furniture and other items to enhance its displays of portraiture and 

(2) preserve or restore any item acquired pursuant to paragraph (1); 

(3) display, loan, store or otherwise hold any such item; 

(4) sell, exchange, donate, return, or otherwise dispose of any such item. 

Finally, the Act provides for a National Portrait Gallery Commission, which meets 
twice yearly to review and approve potential acquisitions presented by the staff, 
including gifts. Approval of the Commission and subsequent ratification by the 
Board of Regents are necessary for all accessions. 



Policy for acquisition, management and disposal of animals 
July 29, 1977 


It is recognized that the National Zoological Park has a duty to the public 
it serves and to the animals in its care. That duty is best served by effectively 
using its resources in advancing and diffusing knowledge. This is best accomplished 
through trying to enlighten our visitor to the need to preserve all wild things 
and to appreciate their differences. It is the crux of our message and is the 
foundation of our acquisition plan. Our obligation to the animals is met by 
humanely taking and keeping each specimen with the hope that animal populations 
can only be helped by our efforts. In addition we have a duty to learn as much 
as we can about each specimen while we have it captive so that we may help species 
survive in the wild as well as in zoos. In doing these things we must work 
within the intent of all laws and regulations. 


Before a recommendation for species selection can be made to the director by 
the Animal Programs Committee, it may have to run a gauntlet of criteria. These 
criteria are based on our mission to advance and diffuse knowledge through the 
maintenance and presentation of a large and diverse selection of species of 
animals and to carry out animal studies in a formal manner. The former advances 
the knowledge of our visitor through the use of the animal collection as an 
interpretive vehicle. The latter advances our own knowledge and the diffusion 
takes places in traditional ways. 

Acquisition Value Alternatives 

Value to the Public 

1. It is admitted that certain species are associated with zoos and are 
expected by the public. 


2. We will attempt to provide our visitor with species and specimens that 
are interesting in appearance and/or behavior especially those that can be used 
to illustrate a concept or have other value as a teaching aid. 

3. In some instances a species will have unique qualities that give it 
high visitor interest. Species of great fame or infamy are justifiable as long 
as their exhibition is of a positive sort and contributes to the knowledge and 
enlightenment of the visitor. 

4. A species may be admitted for consideration should it represent a form 
not now represented in the collection. The extent to which new forms are admitted 
will depend largely on the impact it would have on current programs and available 

Value for Study 

Studies carried out in a zoological park may require the addition of species 
not now in the collection. Such studies must first be approved by the Director 
with the positive recommendation of the Animal Programs Committee. Factors to be 
considered in studying species in a zoo setting are: 

1. It should aid the wild or self-sustaining populations of the species or 
other species. 

2. It should fill in gaps in the current state of knowledge of that species. 

3. It should aid us in learning about a kind of animal so that the 
information can be used in the preservation of endangered species. 

Value for Preservation 

With a serious commitment zoos can do much toward saving some endangered 
species from extinction through captive propagation. With the resources and 
knowledge to develop responsible programs, certain endangered or threatened 
species can be selected for the zoo. Animals that are only uncommon in zoos but 
are abundant or at least stable in parts or most of their natural range are not 
admissable under this alternative. 


Even though a species may be justifiable through the use of the above criteria, 
it will be placed into competition for resources with those species and specimens 
already present in the zoo. The resources and knowledge we possess all will 
grow at their own rate. Each proposed selection must be viewed critically for 
its impact on these slow growing resources and therefore on programs that are 
already on the way. A selection may be justifiable but may require such a drain 


on our stock of energy as to make it unaffordable. When selecting we must 
constantly consider caging needs, dietary requirements, medical knowledge and 
problems, the amount known about captive biology, reproductive needs, and most of 
all the amount of our most expensive resource, people. We would reject any 
selection should the cost of bringing in a species outweigh any benefits. Even a 
highly justifiable selection might be rejected or a former selection might be 
reconsidered in light of this new development. Appendix I is a checklist that 
should be used in evaluating each proposed selection. 

Once an animal has been legally brought into the zoo by the above criteria, 
we must keep a complete written record of its history. This begins with collecting 
data, if possible, and ends with the specimen's final disposition. Anything 
learned about the specimen while it is in the zoo is important to record and be 
able to retrieve. The management of each species will consist of a program of 
care, feeding, hygiene, study, manipulations to produce breeding, often sustaining 
that breeding, placing offspring, replacing worn-out specimens from our own 
stock, from that of other zoos or from the wild, and in controlling the quality 
of the phenotype where we are producing a continuous line of animals. For those 
species where sustained breeding is possible, we have a responsibility as 
custodians of a gene pool to attempt to maintain a genotype as close to the wild 
form as is possible given the problems of captive breeding. Our efforts are 
geared to find the minimum level needed to produce positive results as it must be 
carried out on as large a number of species as is possible given fairly fixed 
resources. For those specimens where breeding on a sustained basis is not a 
reality or is not desirable, we will attempt to gain a maximum number of good 
exhibit years as is possible. This should not be interepreted in such a way as 
to hinder the reproductive efforts of this or other species when resources become 
a problem. 

While any species is kept in the zoo, its presence must serve a purpose. 
Where programs of breeding or study are appropriate, they should be developed in 
some reasonable perio cof time and be regularly reviewed according to our changing 
resource needs. 

Retention and disposal of living animals 

Retention • , 

1. Indefinite retention of any species will never be assumed. Guidelines 
will be applied on each and every species in our care at least once in any three 
year period to determine the value of our continued investment in that animal. 


1. Living animals will be sold, loaned or traded to institutions or private 
parties only, when the zoo recognizes that institution or individual as qualified 
to carry out an exhibition/research or propagation program on the species in 
question that is compatible with our goals. Written agreements must accompany 
all loans and trades. A copy of our goals must accompany any sale. 


2. We are responsible for the well-being of every specimen in our care. 
The zoo must approve the manner of disposal as well as the ultimate end point of 
every specimen. This should be in agreement with our stated purposes. Wherever 
possible, we should attempt to directly place an animal in another zoo. Should 
we be forced to deal though a commerical enterprise, we should seek assurance 
that the final destination of the animal is compatible with our policies. 

3. Animals may be released into the wild within the appropriate habitat 
when we are assured of their chances for survival and it is in accordance with 
all laws. No exotic animal will be released into the wild where a native species 
would be harmed or displaced. 

4. When other options have been exhausted, we will cull those specimens 
that are deformed, old or otherwise not suitable for breeding or exhibition. 
Euthanasia, authorized by the director, will be administered in a humane fashion 
under the veterinarian. It is agreed that to keep an animal beyond its normal 
life expectancy is of doubtful value. To seek longevity records for specimens at 
the expense of valuable resources is counterproductive. Animals that are to be 
euthanized may be subject to appropriate short-term clinical research. Such 
studies will be reviewed by the Animal Programs Committee and must have the 
approval of the director. 

Disposal of dead animals 

1. Based on consideration of the value of the specimen to the museum or 
research staff, the pathologist will be given the first opportunity to gain as 
much information as is possible to insure better care for current and future 
collection animals. 

2. USMNH will be given any specimen that passes from the Office of Pathology 
providing that they have a serious need for the animal. Should the museijm have 

no such need, it may be preserved by the office from which it came in such a way 
as to be available for study in the future or to be loaned to our education 
offices for their programs. 

3. No animal remains nor any part of any animals will be given, sold or 
loaned to any private party except as part of a research or education project 
whose purpose has been explained in writing to the Animal Programs Committee and 
has the approval of the Director. 

4. All dead animals or their parts not utilized as above will be buried, 
incinerated or fed to the living animal collection as determined by the curator 
of the unit and the veterinarian. 

5. All laws governing the disposal of dead animals or parts of dead animals 
will take precedence over any disposition stated above. 


The National Zoo ultimately would like to be able to supply all of its 
animals from captive breeding stock, except where we can responsibly take from 
the wild. Our final obligation is to help preserve all living things. Our small 
but important role can be carried out through the enlightenment of the public and 
through our studies. In our zeal to do this well, we must not inadvertently and 
thoughtlessly do damage to those creatures we seek to protect. This policy 
should help us with our professed task without wandering away from our original 
intent. It should be constantly applied and reviewed so that we never lose sight 
of what we are really here to do. 


Can the species be maintained in a zoo? 

1. Is the species well known in zoos? Is the medical care well known with 
procedures well established? Is the zoo biology fairly complete? Is the 
propagation outlook pretty good? 

2. Has this species been kept in zoos fairly often with good success 
although a great deal still needs to be learned in order to provide good medical 
care, to keep it alive and to breed it on a long term basis? 

3. Is this a species that has not had a long history in captivity although 
some close relatives have been kept with reasonable success? Is our medical 
knowledge and zoo biology incomplete so that a great deal of observation and 
manipulation is needed to care for this animal? Is the propagation outlook 

4. Is this a species that is rarely kept in zoos so that we know little of 
how to medically treat it or keep it alive and breeding in captivity? Would this 
selection take away from study efforts on other species? 

5. Is this a species whose past history in zoos has been poor? Does it 
have a short life expectancy and its captive needs have yet to be discovered? 
Does this selection merit the effort needed to work out solutions to its survival 
in zoos? 

Dietary requirements 

1. Can this species be fed from standard animal food supplies' 


2. Will it consiime large quantities so as to make it uneconomical to keep? 

3. Does it require the use of a food type not normally kept in the zoos 
but readily and economically available? 

4. Will an expensive new food need to be brought into the zoo to feed this 
animal or will that food supply be erractically available? 

5. Are other wild animals required as food for this species? 

Caging requirements 

1. Can a present cage be used? If so what is the program value of the 
species to be displayed? 

2. Must an existing cage be modified using the resources of OFM? 

3. Must an existing cage be modified at an expense large enough to require 
competitive contract? 

4. Must a new cage be built for this species? 

5. Is additional off -exhibit caging needed for the management of this 

Personnel needs 

1. What will be the impact on current animal keeper efforts with the 
addition of the new species? 

2. Will we need to hire new keepers? 

3. Will the recordkeeping demand increase with the new species? 

4. What amount of time will be needed to study the species? 

5. What human resources will be needed to create long range planning for 
the species if it is our intent to breed it in captivity? 

6. What additional personnel or time will be needed to maintain an attractive 
exhibit for this species? 


Selection and Disposition Study 

To better understand the general processes involved in managing collections 

the National Museum of Natural History was asked to undertake a study of 

selected areas of its anthropological holdings. The principal objectives of 

the study, which specifically focused upon policies and procedures that limit 

and control collections growth, were threefold: 

o To provide examples that would help clarify the 

management and control steps involved at departmental 
and curatorial levels encompassing activities related 
to (1) the screening of new materials prior to their 
accessioning and rentention plus (2) the screening and 
review of materials that have been in the Institution's 
official care for some years. The impact on space was 
to be particularly noted in these processess. 

o To review past anthropological collection management 
procedures in an effort to clarify ways these have 
changed and have been improved, and to relate these 
improvements to the Natural History Museum' s overall 
development of a collections management policy. 

o To assess progress to date with respect to using automatic 
data processing (ADP) in managing objects for research 
purposes and for furthering control over the existing 
anthropological collections. 

The full report, which will be submitted separately, is comprehensive and 
contains detailed results. 

While not representative of the screening and accessioning processes at 
work in the history and art operations of the Institution, Anthropology was 
chosen for this study because the activities fairly reflect the kinds of 


processes and controls at work in other departments of the Natural History 
Museum such as Botany, Mineral Sciences, Paleobiology, and Vertebrate and 
Invertebrate Zoology. In addition, the results of the study may affect the 
development and implementation of an overall collection policy for the Museum 
related to the future operations of the proposed Museum Support Center. Since 
the Natural History Museum will be the principal occupant of the first building, 
it is important to understand the mechanisms at work in that portion of the 
Institution's operations. 


Without systematic museum collections much of what we know about man's 
environment, his biological evolution, and his social and cultural diversity 
would have been undiscovered. Natural History museum collections consist of 
related sets of objects and their supporting documentation. Accession records, 
catalogues, and field notes recording how specimens were selected are basic to 
all scientific collections, for no specimen is complete without its 
documentation. Within natural history, anthropology collections encompass a 
diverse range of objects. Human skeletal materials, archeological specimens 
and material culture from ethnographic contexts all provide concrete bases for 
the scientific examination of man's nature. Anthropology collections thus 
function primarily as data banks for scientific research. In addition, anthro- 
pological specimens may be used for educational purposes as exhibit, teaching 
and training materials. 


Standards used in evaluating anthropological museum collections follow 
from their use in scientific research. A collection should provide a complete, 
representative, and well documented record. These standards provide a basis 
for judging the anthropological value of individual specimens and whole 
collections before they are accepted into the permanent collections. The 
requirements of the collection management process reflect the same standards. 
Collection control procedures are designed to preserve the physical specimens 
and their documentation as well as the integrity of the whole collection. The 
permanent loss of a few strategic specimens can seriously impair or totally 
destroy the research value of an entire systematic collection. 

Procedures designed to limit the size of anthropological holdings occur 
at two points in the collecting process. The screening of potential collections 
before and during accessioning constitutes the most effective curb on collection 
growth. In addition, the ongoing processes of collections management may 
identify a number of undesirable specimens. These are recommended for de- 
accessioning and, after the appropriate formal procedures, may be removed from 
the collections. 


In the accessioning process, potential additions to the anthropology 
holdings are subjected to a two-stage screening procedure. The appropriateness 
of objects offered to the department is normally first judged by the curator 
ultimately responsible for their care. While the number, kind, and quality of 


potential specimens offered vary from one curatorial area to another, conservative 
estimates place the level of rejection for professional and scientific reasons 
at seventy to ninety percent. Further, of the acceptable fraction many are 
not recommended due to the lack of purchase funds. A potential accession 
receives its second screening during the formal presentation to the Anthropology 
Collections Advisory Committee. Here a large percentage of the proposed 
acquisitions (about 85%) are approved, since this committee serves largely to 
insure that the established departmental policy has been followed. 

In order to provide detailed information about pre-accessioning disposition, 
the study focused upon the recent processing of two potential accessions. 
These case studies involved large collections that were brought to the Mall 
museum and housed during their study and screening. This practice is typical 
of archeological research because excavation sites often lack the equipment 
and facilities for adequate examination. Further, field time is frequently 
limited and must be employed to complete the excavation as planned. Materials 
from the Jones-Miller site, a Paleo-Indian bison kill, provided an example. A 
similar situation occurs when a large body of privately held materials is 
donated to the museum. A particular donated ethnographic collection exemplified 
this kind of accessioning problem. 


The recently discovered Jones-Miller site in northeastern Colorado dates 
back some 7,000 - 10,000 years. The scientific value of the site lies in the 


completeness of the excavation and in the broad range of biological and cultural 
data recovered. These provide evidence about the ancient environment and the 
Paleo- Indian's ecological role. The remains of the approximately 300 slaughtered 
bison constitute the richest source of data. These provide information about 
hunting strategy, butchering technique and bone working technology. Further, 
paleontologists consider these bones to be a crucial population for 
investigating the apparent extinction of a series of large bison species in 
the western United States. The excavators used a wide range of recovery 
techniques which yielded large volumes of partially processed materials. The 
largest bodies of materials were bison bones, soil sample, and screenwash. 
While the sorting and screening process is not yet complete, enough work has 
been done to predict that about 40% of the volume originally brought back to 
the museum will be discarded. Most of this is waste to be thrown away once 
its scientific value has been extracted. In addition, some bone fragments may 
be destroyed in the Carbon- 14 dating process, and type specimens of microfauna 
may be sent to other institutions. The results are significant because they 
demonstrate the degree of care which the curator and the museum require in 
selecting material for retention. In addition, the Jones-Miller case study 
illustrates the pressures that are periodically brought to bear upon the 
limited holding and examination space within the building, and the additional 
space needed for housing various materials. These spaces should be located 
close to laboratory and other specialized facilities so that scientists can 
pursue their work effectively. 



One donated collection is the largest (577) ethnographic collection 
processed in recent years. Because the great majority of the objects were 
processed recently (1975-1976), it was possible to construct a detailed account 
of the procedures used from interviews and the working notes of curators and 
scientific support staff. Each specimen was examined by the appropriate 
curator with the result that about 65% of the original gift was accessioned 
into the permanent collections. Of the remaining 35% slightly under 3% were 
transferred to other, more appropriate, Smithsonian museums. Another 31% 
consisted of ethnographic materials which did not enhance existing holdings 
within Anthropology. These were placed in the School Collection, which is a 
pool of specimens that are made available as permanent loans to educational 
institutions. The School Collection is held in tightly packed temporary 
storage. Finally, under 1% of the collection consisted of substantially 
altered ethnographic materials. These were given to the Conservation Laboratory, 
where they will be used as a source of supply for materials needed in restoring 
specimens in the permanent collections and in testing new conservation techniques, 


The Department of Anthropology has placed catalogue data associated with 
its holdings in a computer data file because automatic data processing (ADP) 
offers a technology for handling long-standing control problems in its 
collections. The culling and upgrading study built upon established departmental 


practice and developed a procedure for ADP assisted inventory of the permanent 
collections. To test the new procedures several pilot inventories were conducted. 
The primary purpose of the physical inventory is to maintain and upgrade the 
scientific quality of the collections. This is accomplished by establishing 
greater control over the location, documentation, and physical state of the 
specimens. In addition, physical inventory is an aid in locating and identifying 
specimens that should be recommended for deaccessioning. 

The pilot inventories suggest that the number of deaccessioning 
recommendations can be expected to be small (less than 1%) . The departmental 
Collections Advisory Committee has handled correspondingly few deaccessions 
(4% of its transactions). It is clear, therefore, that careful implementation 
of the departmental Collections Policy in considering potential accessions 
remains the most effective means of limiting and guiding collections growth. 


Information Management 

The significance of a museum object lies both in the object itself and 
in the information pertaining to it. Consequently the recording of information 
about collection contents should receive as high a priority as collecting 

A few decades ago any discussion of how museums collect such knowledge 
might have been limited to a description of museum record keeping methods. 
But the development of computers has focused attention on information as a 
discrete resource and even as a commodity. As a result, the museum profession, 
like many others, has been led to consider records management in the broader 
context of information management. 

Although computerized systems have been widely publicized in recent 
years, the principles on which automated information systems are based were 
established before computers became available and are applicable to manual 
systems as well. These principles reflect a basic shift of emphasis from 
routine preparation and retention of records to the need for better access to 
the information contained in them. 


This shift in emphasis does not obviate consideration of the records 
themselves. Therefore, it may be helpful to include here a brief description 
of what records are maintained in Smithsonian museums and why: 

Arrival records ■ Practices and names vary but every museum 
starts keeping track of objects and specimens as soon as they 
arrive. At this point it is not always known whether an item 
will become part of a permanent collection. It may be 
submitted for identification or examination. It may be offered 
for sale and submitted on approval. Or it may be an intended 
donation, solicited or unsolicited. 

Such records are usually maintained in the office of a museum 
registrar before the item is forwarded to the appropriate 
department or curator for disposition. Usually each item or 
group is assigned a temporary identification number, often 
referred to as a registration number or registrar's number. 
The record may be kept on cards or in log books and 
supplementary files may be developed to assemble correspondence 
or other documentation. 

Accession records . At the Smithsonian as well as in most 
museums, an object or specimen is never regarded as being in 
the collection until it has been accessioned. Accessioning is 
a formal process executed only after a thorough analysis has 
taken place. Analysis, which is primarily a curatorial 
responsibility, includes such things as determining the 
appropriateness of an item to the collection, evaluating its 
quality and preservability , ascertaining its provenance, 
making sure the offerer has a legal right to convey it, 
documenting the instruments of conveyance, etc. When all this 
has been accomplished an accession number is assigned and all 
the pertinent documents are assembled in a single file folder 
or envelope. Almost invariably the assignment of accession 
records and the maintenance of the files is a registrarial 
responsibility. If any accession documentation is maintained 
by the curator it usually consists of duplicates of selected 
documents. Hence for any action related to inventory the 
first place to start is the museum registrar's office. 

Donor records . The term donor is a typal designation 
encompassing sellers and bequestors as well as donors. At the 
Smithsonian it is customary for each museum registrar to 
maintain a "donor" file and to compile an annual report of the 
receipts from each donor. In general a registrar has only two 

points of access to records donor name and accession 



Cataloguing records . Cataloguing in a museum is much the same 
as it is in a library. If a traditional card catalogue is 
maintained, each object is represented by a master card giving 
many of the particulars about the source, significance and 
nature of the object and sometimes indicating its current 
location. Additional copies of the card, or cross-references 
to it, may be prepared to provide access to the information by 
type, material, name, or other characteristics of the object. 
Usually the object is given a catalog number different from 
the accession number. 

Just who does the cataloguing depends to some extent on the 
nature of the museum. In an art museum it is apt to start 
with the registrar. In other t3rpes of museums it is apt 
to be a curator or some trained person working under the 
guidance of a curator. In any event it is generally 
considered necessary for a cataloguer to have special 
knowledge or expertise in the discipline of the 

Loan records . In rare instances (e.g., at Freer) museums are 
prohibited from borrowing and lending., at any one 
time a museum can be expected to have a number of its own 
objects out on loan to other institutions and a number of 
other institutions' objects temporarily on loan to its own 
quarters. It is usually the registrar who handles all the 
packing, shipping, receiving, insurance, customs and similar 
matters on both incoming and outgoing loans. And it is the 
registrar's office that usually maintains the records. 

The manual systems still in operation at the Smithsonian have served 
reasonably well through the years but some of them are gradually being replaced 
or supplemented by automated systems. Although librarians and museum curators 
in general are sometimes criticized either for reluctance to accept automation 
or for the inclination to accept packaged systems without thorough preliminary 
evaluations, neither extreme is in evidence at the Institution. 

A typical example of a new look at an old manual system that has served 
reasonably well in the past is the current investigation at NMNH into the 
possible automation of its donor records. It has always been the custom of 


the museum to maintain a 3x5 card file in donor-name sequence. (The practice 
began in the old U.S. National Museum, where donor name was the access point 
most frequently needed by registrarial personnel.) Cards for each current 
year are filed separately. Before being interfiled in the main file they are 
used to compile an annual report giving particulars on the year's acquisitions. 
Preparation of the annual donor report is a time costly clerical project. 
This year the museum's registrar is undertaking an analysis of the comparative 
cost of maintaining a computerized donor file. The investigation is still 
under way but it appears that the effort required to key a new computer 
record would be virtually the same as that required to type a card. However 
it further appears that the combined costs of maintaining the file and printing 
out an annual donor report from it may be slightly less than the overtime 
costs involved in preparing a manual report. A computerized file would offer 
the added advantage of printing out lists sorted on other useful access 
points, such as collection assignment, accession number and departmental 
location. If the plan is adopted the museum's registrar proposes to initiate 
the computer file at the beginning of the next fiscal year and incorporate 
records for previous donations on a time-available basis, spreading the 
effort over several years until the entire file has been computerized. 

This investigation is one of many that have led to the successful intro- 
duction of automation in a number of Smithsonian museums during the past ten 
years. The usual practice is to identify some objectives that are not being 
met successfully, or not being met at all, and to design an automated procedure 
capable of supporting them. Nearly all of the systems developed to date have 
been adaptations of SELGEM, a general-purpose system devised by the Office 
of Computer Services in 1966. Two years ago the SI Registrar's Office compiled 


a list of information needs that might be filled by automated systems. The 
following have been extracted from that list: 

o Locate all the works by a particular artist. 

o List all the objects (in each museum) made of the same basic 
materials such as glass » silver, wood, etc. 

o List all the items obtained from a particular donor (seller, 

o List all the specimens collected at a particular site or in a 
particular geographic area. 

o Prepare location lists for inventory purposes. 

o List all the items currently on loan to a particular borrower. 

o List all the items currently on loan from a particular lender. 

o Search the records for all the items meeting some particular set of 
criteria (combination of object type, material of fabrication, 
source, etc.) 

o Identify candidate objects for an exhibit on a particular theme. 

o Prepare exhibition catalogs. 

o Identify all the artifacts related to some important person or 
event of historical significance. 

o Locate the portraits of a particular individual. 

o Prepare exhibit labels for objects and specimens. 

o Find weak spots or holes in collections by preparing lists 

according to taxonomic, geographic or other characteristics. 

Some of these purposes can be seen reflected in accounts of automation 
activities in various Smithsonian bureaus. A few illustrative examples 
appear below. 


The HMSG collection is comprised of 6400 objects, consisting primarily 
of late-nineteenth and twentieth century paintings, sculptures, drawings and 
prints. Basic catalogue information on each object has been entered in the 
computer files. A master listing of this information has been produced and 
is to be updated every six months. In addition, listings by accession number, 
cross reference from several previous accession numbering systems, storage 
inventory cards, photo archives file labels, frequency data by artist and 
object class, and listing of specific parts of the collection (e.g., "nineteenth 
century American sculpture") have been generated. 

Preliminary steps have been taken for an inventory of the entire NASM 

collection. The NASM staff is working in close conjuction with OCS to devise 

forms which will facilitate the indexing of the collection on the computer. 

Meanwhile, the following systems are in operation: 

o Aircraft . A compilation of aircraft in museums, worldwide, is 
maintained. The compilation is on punched cards and tape and 
is updated biennially for publication as "Aircraft in Museums 
around the World." This publication is distributed to all 
contributors and other interested organizations. 

o Aircraft engines . A similar compilation of aircraft engines 
is maintained on both punched cards and tape. "Aircraft 
Engines in Museums around the World" was published once and is 
being updated for republication. 

o Aircraft models . NASM maintains an inventory of its model 

collection on punched cards and tape. It is for internal use 
and no publication is contemplated. 

o Aeronautics Archives Index . A complete index of the Aeronautics 
Department archival material is on computer tape. Printouts 
are provided to the Department and to the NASM Library. The 
index has just been updated and will be updated every 6 months. 
The NASM aircraft drawing collection which is being microfilmed 
is being added to the index. 


Computer files representing over three million specimens had been compiled 
at NMNH by the end of 1976. All files are in the format of the SELGEM system, 
which permits data to be retrieved and reported in a wide variety of ways. Each 
file conforms to a specific set of data standards which state the accuracy, 
thoroughness, format and syntax of the data. As far as is practical, the same 
data standards are followed by several files so that information can be retrieved 
from them simultaneously without prior modification of the data. Information 
from files is provided by the ADP Program Office upon request and with the 
approval of the appropriate sponsoring department. Outside recipients of inform- 
ation are billed for services on a cost basis unless other arrangements have 
been made. Internal requests are covered by internal budgets. 

The subject matter and objectives of computer files built for collection 

management purposes are set by each scientific department in NMNH according to 

its needs. Other data banks relating to specimens are built by individual 

scientists for special purposes. Four kinds of files are recognized: 

o Catalogue files . These contain individual specimen records made up of 
all the data typically included in specimen catalogues and found on 
specimen labels. The data generally include catalogue number, accession 
number, dates of collection, names of collectors, donors, and cataloguers, 
name of the specimens, complete information about the collecting 
locality, bibliographic information if the specimen has been mentioned 
in the literature, specimen count, sex if applicable, basic measurements 
when appropriate, stratigraphic information for geological specimens, 
cultural information for anthropological specimens, status of the 
specimens as types, and pertinent remarks. 

Catalogue files may be either current or retrospective. Current 
catalogue files are generally built during the process of cataloguing 
specimens, and thus contain information on specimens which have been 
catalogued since the ADP procedures were implemented. Retrospective 
catalogue files cover specimens catalogued prior to the change to ADP 
methods, and are generally built to complete the computer record of 
some unit of the collection. Retrospective treatment of collections 
provides the opportunity to systematically review and verify the 
contents of the collection. 


Collection-index files . These contain only part of the data available 
for the specimens covered. Hence complete collection coverage can 
be achieved more rapidly and more cheaply than with catalogue 
files. Index files are generally built when the department has a 
short-term objective involving an entire collection, but does not 
have the resources to complete a catalogue file. Examples are the 
Ethnology collection and the collection of Reptiles and Amphibians 
from the U.S., for which index files are being built to aid inventory 
reviews and to provide basic cross-indexes. Only key data needed 
to meet the objectives of the project are included in index files. 
Index files generally cover both old and new specimens, and may 
include specimens which have not been catalogued. 

Research files . Included here are files which contain specimen 
information and which are either built or supplemented as part of 
the research objectives of individual scientists. In some cases 
the scientists simply add to the specimen information already 
entered in a catalogue or index file. In other cases the scientists 
are building the complete files themselves, using their own resources. 
The Carabid Beetle collection in the Department of Entomology is an 
example of the latter case. 

Reference files . These usually do not refer to specific specimens 
but contain information which may be useful in dealing with the 
collections. For instance, several bibliographic files are being 
constructed which include publications that discuss specimens held 
in the collections. Also, several files provide complete taxonomic 
syntheses for some major groups such as bees and wasps, and 
plants. Reference files are generally built for purposes other 
than aiding the use of the collections, and do not draw on resources 
set aside for computerizing the collections. 



Throughout this report heavy emphasis has been 
given to the conservation functions of museums. 
This appendix describes more fully the role of the 
conservator f the need for conservation facilities, 
and outlines some of the major functions of the 
conservation laboratories of the Institution, 

Objects do not persist unchanged merely as a result of becoming accessioned 
into a collection. In fact they are subjected to greater risk of damage 
because they become a cynosure for scholars, curators, cataloguers, exhibitors, 
and the public. Conservation is the activity which aims at mitigating these 
risks. It is a complex operation. Its parts are: control of environment, 
examination, preservation, and restoration of individual objects. Examination 
preparatory to preservative treatment can, if done in-depth, also yield 
information of scholarly value to the art-historian, the archaeologist, or 
other type of curator. When emphasis is given to examination whose outcome is 
not necessarily subsequent preservation, we have what is known as "Archaeometry.' 

If properly documented, conservation activities also add to our knowledge 
of deterioration processes and lead to research into new techniques for 
increasing longevity. 


Conservation activity cannot be compartmentalized. It operates at numerous 
levels, involving: a) registrars, who keep condition reports and ascertain 
that fragile objects are not lent, travel unnecessarily or travel without 
environmental control when they need it; b) security staff, who prevent vandalism; 

c) building managers, whose engineers maintain steady relative humidity and 
temperature and dust-free air, unfailingly, and who prevent insect infestation; 

d) designers, whose display techniques protect the object from excessive 
light, contact, polluted air, and the corrosion stimulants generated by wood 
and by some modem paints; e) curators, who have the administrative power to 
insure that objects are not damaged by mishandling; f) curatorial aids who 
constantly monitor storage areas, noticing changes in objects which need 
attention; g) a conservation laboratory where examination in depth, information 
on preservation, and treatment aimed at simple cleaning or physical/chemical 
stabilization or even restoration can be provided, in accordance with the code 
of ethics of the American Institute for Conservation. 

The conservation laboratories of the Institution's museums are staffed by 
professional conservators with secretarial and other assistance. Ideally, 
from a beginning in art-history, anthropology, or archaeology, in chemistry or 
other science, and possessing manual aptitude, the professional has been 
trained in a conservation school to the Master's level. In actual fact, as a 
result of a world-wide shortage of such graduates, individuals without these 
qualifications and lacking some of the requisites for them, do fill many 
Institutional positions and can perform admirably because of the cooperation 
they obtain from curators and scientists. 


Most of the museums (Freer, HMSG, NCFA, NPG, NMNH [Anthropology], NMHT, 
Cooper-Hewitt) employ conservation staffs. These can assist registrarial and 
curatorial personnel in reporting conditions and in making regular inspections 
of exhibit halls and storage areas for evidence of damage or deterioration. 
In addition, NMHT has made good use of "Conservation Coordinators" who, during 
the preparation of an exhibition, work with display-contractors, curators, 
designers, in consultation with the Conservation-Analytical Laboratory in 
order to catch mistaken procedures or unsuitable materials before they are 
incorporated on a large scale with consequent risk to the objects, and to 
provide for the smooth and adequately scheduled flow of objects needing treatment, 
Such coordinators can greatly increase the output of the limited number of 
conservators engaged in the actual treatment of objects. There are too few 
conservators to perform all the treatment required. Hence they should be 
supported fully, and their time not diverted to activities which can be performed 
as well by lesser trained personnel. 

Conservators also need support from scientist-analyists who can examine 
objects in a penetrating manner, identify products of deterioration, determine 
the suitability of materials for specific functions, etc. Scientists are 
essential for Archaeometry. Such scientists are employed at the Freer for 
work on their own collections, and a small group is available to all of the 
Institution through the Conservation- Analytical Laboratory. 

A further activity of the conservation staff is training. A limited 
nimber of interns are accepted into the various laboraties, from time to time, 
as work-loads permit. Usually these come from one of the conservation schools. 


The Anthropology Conservation Laboratory of NMNH, in an attempt to assist in 
filling a nation-wide need for anthropology technicians, has offered learning 
opportunities to students from the George Washington University Museology 
program who learn as they work. Only about one third of the operators in that 
laboratory are employed by the Institution. 

Conservation Facilities and Personnel 

In 1963 the Institution established the Conservation Analytical Laboratory, 

a central unit designed to assist all SI museums. Staffed by conservators and 

scientists, CAL advises on the suitability of environmental conditions, examines 

and treats objects needing protection or preservation, analyzes objects to 

obtain research data of interest to historians and scientists, and provides 

data for training programs in conservation techniques. Objects or specimens 

that present special problems or require specialized equipment not available 

in curatorial units can be treated in this central laboratory. Some idea of 

the scope of conservation activity is provided by the following list of typical 

CAL functions: 

o Analyses of objects or materials (e.g., pigments, fibers, 
alloys, corrosion products) by advanced instrumentation to 
determine appropriate conservation procedures. 

o Analyses of objects or materials to provide museum archeologists 
and historians with basic research data on dates, attribution, 
ancient production methods, etc. 

o Tests to determine the suitability of commercial products 

proposed for prolonged contact with artifacts or for use as 
fmnigants in storage. 

o Cleaning, mending, alteration and restoration of objects. 


o Devising of nondestructive analytical methods suitable to 
museum objects and specimens. 

o Provision of information on request, and of training aids 
including lectures, video-tapes and tape-slide lectures. 

Interviews with curators and conservators in the various bureaus suggest 
that, in spite of all this attention, conservation activity throughout the 
Institution is not as effective as it might be. Not unexpectedly the problems 
most commonly cited were insufficient staffing and insufficient time. 
Respondents cited cases where problems had remained undetected for such long 
periods of time that complete restoration of the items was difficult or 
impossible. Some of those having responsibility for regular conservation 
inspections admitted that scheduled inspections often had to be postponed and 
that objects stored in certain locations sometimes had remained uninspected 
for excessive periods. 

Attempts to quantify personnel and time shortages brought inconclusive 
results during these interviews. The Institution, which has 44 people devoted 
to conservation on a full-time basis out of more than 2000 people having 
direct collections management responsibility, was compared with the British 
Museum, which has 63 out of approximately 1100. However, there was no inform- 
ation on which to base an overall comparison of the two institutions. While 
it has been said, as a rule of thumb, that one full-time conservation employee 
is needed for every 250,000 objects, this rule also could not be confirmed 
satisfactorily. If applied to the Institution's more than 70 million objects, 
the number of conservators would have to increase from 44 to 312, an increase 
that would be difficult to justify and which would be virtually impossible to 
achieve in the foreseeable future due to the internationally acute shortage of 


trained personnel. (For example, assigning 49 conser^/ation employees to the 
present stamp collections might produce results other than those intended) . 

There seems to be little doubt that conservation efficacy should be made 
the subject of a management survey at the Smithsonian in an effort to determine 
just what the problems are and how best they might be attacked. Meanwhile, 
for the purposes of this study it should be observed that space and suitable 
personnel sufficient to implement an effective conservation program must be 
regarded as essential operational requirements for the proposed Museum Support 


3 TDflfl DD3D377t T 

mrc AM133,S66 
A report on the management of collection